Fat Kid Rules the World. Really!

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going; published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2003; 183 pages.

We are inside Troy’s head from cover to cover.  Troy “Big T” Billings is a 300 pound 17 year old with very little going for him.  Since his mother died, he feels like he’s a disappointment to his father and brother.  His self-esteem is non-existent as we surmise from the headlines he attributes to daily events: fat kid hallucinates about cool friend; fat kid gets pummeled by mob; fat kid gets hysterical.  He is befriended by the polar-opposite Curt MacCrae, a popular, homeless, drug-addicted, sickly-skinny punk rock guitarist.  Curt teaches Troy to look outside himself, realizing that no one is looking at him or judging him but himself.  Their synergy is life altering—each knows what the other one needs before he recognizes it for himself.  They meet when Curt saves Troy’s life and the story ends with Curt recognizing that Troy has reciprocated,  probably saving his life too.

K.L. Going’s style imitates the inner voice of the adolescent boy with humor, honesty and reality.  She has created true-to-life characters that don’t necessarily find a happy ending, but they find peace and maybe the road to a happier ending.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Going did not create a two-dimensional cartoon character as Troy’s father.  In fact, the changing relationship with his father provided the most realistic and significant alteration for Troy. Even the friendship between Troy and Curt was realistic; they need each other but are protective of their own egos and won’t let on how much they need each other.  As a coming of age story, I was impressed by the maturity that Troy developed by the end.  Yet, the fact that the story does not end with a feel-good, “they lived happily ever after” reflects the real world.  It ended with possibilities for change.

Teens, especially boys, will find this book engrossing and entertaining.  How many “Guitar Heroes” are out there, dreaming of hooking up with a Curt MacRae in real life?  In addition, Curt’s drug problem is not glorified or made pretty; readers should be pretty horrified with his situation.  I know I cheered when Mr. Billings agreed to take Curt in to help him clean up his act.  I also cheered when Troy found his self-esteem in something he loved; he didn’t have to lose the extra weight to feel good about himself.  If Rage/Tectonic were a real band, I’d be in the front row of the The Dump with my fist in the air telling them they’re going to be huge!  As it is, I’m wondering when the movie will be coming out…and I hope one is planned.

4P     5Q     Grades 9-12fatkidrulesworld

Cover Art: The typeface of the title will attract teens to this book.  This is another book that I found because of the spine art when I was really looking for a different title.  The way the image is cropped will cause readers to pause and try to see the whole picture which is a nice trick to keep the book in readers’ hands a little longer.  Overall, though, I think it’s the title that will attract teens to this book.

From Reading List: “Keepin’ It Real (Realistic Fiction)”

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