Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
By Carolyn Mackler
Publication date: 2003


Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and follows the "Fat Girl Code of Conduct." Her stuttering best friend has just moved to Walla Walla (of all places). Her new companion, Froggy Welsh the Fourth (real name), has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he’ll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves: Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend; Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV; and older siblings Anaïs and rugby god Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture-perfect family. Or so she’s convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything.

My review:
It would be very difficult to grow up in a family of overachievers like the Shreves. Virginia thinks her family is perfect while she very obviously is not. Some of Virginia's confidence issues stem from her family's treatment of her. When they aren't indifferent, her parents make comments about Virginia's weight or compare her to her older siblings. While Virginia does indulge in some pity parties I found her to be a relatable character. She matures as the book goes on and she gradually develops a more positive attitude about herself. Virginia also comes to realize that no one is perfect, least of all her family.

I reviewed this book for Body Image and Self Perception Month. At the beginning of the book, Virginia has an unhealthy attitude about her body. Her "Fat Girl Code of Conduct" list is terrible and it is very clear how little she values herself. At times it was heartbreaking to see how Virginia felt about herself. Thankfully Virginia does have some people in her life who help her build her self esteem. As Virginia begins to stand up to her family she begins to see herself in a different way. She is a really spunky girl with a sense of humor. After her mom puts down her decision to wear a purple dress saying that she should wear beige or yellow to be less conspicuous, Virginia dyes her hair purple to match her dress. It is fantastic to see Virginia grow over the course of the novel.

I love that the emphasis is not on losing weight but being healthy and  feeling good about yourself just the way you are. One of the problems Virginia must deal with is learning to stop comparing herself to her family members. It is natural for people to compare themselves with others but it is a very unhealthy habit. She also has to learn that her family isn't perfect-no one is. The Shreves have a tendency to hide imperfections and set unrealistic expectations. For Virginia this leads her to feel inferior to the rest of her family.

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things is a moving novel with an engaging heroine. Virginia Shreves may have a lot of issues to work through but she is quite a character. She is funny, smart, and brave. This book would appeal to fans of realistic teen fiction. It does deal with themes of date rape and physical relationships so it might be more suitable for mature teens.

Readalikes: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Pretty Face by Mary Hogan, Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer, Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott, Tangled by Carolyn Mackler


  1. Great review - I love that the message emphasizes feeling good about yourself. I'll have to add this to my list!

  2. Great review. I have been looking at this book for a while, now I think I really must add it to my TBR pile :D

  3. Great review, Christina! I liked this book, I love how Virginia's opinion of herself changed towards the end, but her mother wound me up no end! Thanks for the review!

  4. I've had my eye on this book for a while -- it's something I'd be tempted to pick up for the title alone. :-) After reading your review, I'm even more interested. I love the fact that Virginia is a relatable, flawed character who matures throughout the story.

  5. This is a much better review than the one I'm working on! I really liked this book, so I feel like I'm struggling to do it justice.


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