Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have
A Novel by Allen Zadorff
High School is hard enough without being a size 48 waist. For Andrew Zansky, High School is just one more place where he can be reminded that he doesn’t, and will never, fit in. As the second fattest kid in school, an average day for Andy means trying to squeeze into his pants, praying that he’ll fit into his desk at school, and hiding from a beating by the school bully. However, as much as being overweight sucks, Andy has grown to mostly accept it; it’s in his genes after all. His friendship with class clown Eytan and involvement in the model UN club at school almost makes up for the over-protectiveness of his caterer mother, absentee father, and over abundance of flab.
Of course all this changes once he meets geek chic April. Knowing he has zero chance with her, Andy can’t help but try to dream up a plan to make April his. So when a routine bully pummeling leads to a chance encounter with O. Douglass, captain of the football team and teen dream guy, Andy is presented with the opportunity to drastically change his fat nerd status: by joining the football team. All of a sudden Andy is embraced by the popular elite of his school. No longer a “nobody,” Andy finds himself hanging out and attending the popular crowd’s parties and other extracurricular activities. April, who’s joined the cheerleading squad, is now part of his everyday life. And best of all, as a football player, Andrew’s “fatness” has become an asset and not a detriment, helping him protect quarterback O. Douglass on the field.
The big question Allen Zadorff’s (notice any closeness between the names Allen Zadorff and Andrew Zansky? Could this novel be semi-autobiographical?) novel asks is “how far would you go to fit it?” Because while Andy is enjoying all the perks that come with his new life, it has meant giving up some of his old; like his previous friends and activities… even risking his life on the field because of his extreme asthma, all so he can maybe have a chance with April. But Andrew is finding out the hard way that fitting in and being popular may not really be all that it is cracked up to be.
I really enjoyed this novel. I feel like there’s not enough YA books out there that a lot of guys can relate to, and “Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have” is a book that anyone; guy, girl, fat, thin, young, and old can relate to. The story told from Andrew’s point of view is written so humorously, that while you feel bad for Andy’s situation, you can’t help but laugh at little at some of his comments. The best part of this novel though, I thought, came at the end when Andy (through the course of events) realized that being popular really was not all that great, and that some of the popular kids who he thought were his friends really were not so wonderful. I think this story is a great lesson in loving who you are and not trying to change yourself for the approval of others. So to all the jocks, the princesses, the loners, the basket cases, and the geeks (breakfast club reference anyone?!), go out and read this book!