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Teen literature alive with positive, plus-size characters

By LEANNE ITALIE Published: September 24, 2009
Like never before, teen lit is alive with plus-size characters who take on their school tormenters and get the guy, soaking up self-esteem as football heroes and big-girl models.

While fat may not be the new vampire, the uptick comes at just the right time for young readers. Childhood obesity is epic, while a large, loud and proud fat-acceptance movement advocates good health at any size over doomed diets, food obsessions and shame.

In titles that include "Looks,” "Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies” and "This Book Isn’t Fat, It’s Fabulous,” young people with meat on their bones are front and center in at least two dozen new books out since last year, rather than the usual ugly-duckling best friend or neighbor. Many of the stories conclude without significant weight loss, a huge breakthrough for some young fans.

"There weren’t many characters I could relate to when I was younger,” said Elizabeth Sterling, an 18-year-old nursing student who writes a blog called Diary of a Fat Teenager. "The message that would come across to my young, insecure brain would be, ‘In order to do what they do, you need to look like them.’”

Allen Zadoff’s "Food, Girls and Other Things I Can’t Have” relies on wit and cutting dialogue to tell the story of a rare overweight boy protagonist. Zadoff, 42, said he was obese growing up, like his 15-year-old, Andrew Zansky.

"I was not just overweight. I was struggling with an eating disorder. I got larger and larger over time. No amount of dieting would fix the problem,” Zadoff said.


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