SKINNY by Diana Spechler
Published May 1st, 2011 by Harper Perennial
After her father’s death, twenty-six-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself compulsively eating. Desperate to stop bingeing, she abandons her life in New York City for a job at a southern weight-loss camp. There, caught among the warring egos of her devious co-counselor, Sheena; the self-aggrandizing camp director, Lewis; his attractive assistant, Bennett; and a throng of combative teenage campers, she is confronted by a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister, Eden, whom Gray never knew existed. Now, while unraveling her father’s lies, Gray must tackle her own self-deceptions and take control of her body and her life.
Visceral, poignant, and often wickedly funny, Skinny illuminates a young woman’s struggle to make sense of the link between hunger and emotion, and to make peace with her demons, her body, and herself.
When I entered a contest and agreed to participate in an author discussion, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into with SKINNY. I thought I would be getting a book about one woman’s acceptance of herself. I rarely read into details about things and this has often led me down weird paths with books. SKINNY was kind of a discussion about acceptance and body image, but more so about grief, blame, and realizations about one’s self and one’s life. Gray is a 26 year old (note: I think the math might have been wrong because unless she spent several months in the hospital, she would have been 27 during camp if her father died on her 26th birthday fourteen months before she was in the hospital after 7 weeks of camp – small nitpick, but I could very well be wrong) New Yorker who has lost her dad and blames herself, diving straight into an eating binge before finding out she might have a half sister. She signs up to be a camp counselor at a fat camp in North Carolina (yay NC) in order to lose her fifteen extra pounds and to meet this sister she never knew she had.
The story is well paced and interesting, keeping me wrapped up in the storyline, especially the last 150 pages (read one morning when insomnia and a perky cat woke me up at 6 AM). For the most part, the characters intrigued me, especially Spider the allergic camper and Gray’s boyfriend back home Mikey, an up-and-coming comedian. The one character I really disliked, though, was Gray herself. Her whining was constant and by the end I really found myself wanting her to shut up. She blamed herself for things she had no responsibility over, cheated on her boyfriend who loved her, and ignored her own issues that prevented her from getting better. She wasn’t fat, she was just someone who needed to come to terms with herself. And a therapist wouldn’t have hurt.
I give this book props for the main male non-boyfriend love interest, Bennett. Not really because I found him too exciting, but because he was a Carolina Hurricanes fan. This really must be the first book I’ve ever read with a Hurricanes shout out. I used to live in the NC mountains so I enjoyed the setting and understood that well. Overall, the strength of this story lies less in the characters but more in the story. Even if I disliked most of the characters (especially Gray and her co-counselor Sheena, who I thought was exceedingly stupid and vindictive for little reason), I enjoyed the pace of the story and the flow. It kept me hooked, maybe because I wanted to see if the characters changed for the better. The ending, though, left a little to be desired. Gray found peace and moved on, but it wasn’t fulfilling like I had expected.
Despite the characterization faults, Spechler’s writing is engaging and fun. I was drawn in immediately, which was hard to do considering I started it at the beach with the ocean calling my name. I’m definitely interested in reading more from this author, just as long as Gray is not involved.
VERDICT: Besides annoying characters (including the MC), SKINNY is a fun, quick read for young women who have gone through grief and bouts of self esteem issues. It’s more of a 3.5 than a 4, but since I round up…
♥♥♥♥ - FOUR HEARTS
NOTE: This book was provided for free by Harper Perennial in exchange for participation in an author discussion hosted by The Next Best Book Blog on Goodreads in August.