Saturday, June 28, 2008

Artichoke's Heart

Supplee, Suzanne. 2008. Artichoke's Heart.

I love, love, love this one. I do. Rosemary Goode is our narrator. And she's a great one. Here's how it begins: "Mother spent $700 on a treadmill 'from Santa' that I will never use. I won't walk three blocks when I actually want to get somewhere, much less run three miles on a strip of black rubber only to end up where I started out in the first place. Aunt Mary gave me two stupid diet books and three tickets for the upcoming conference at Columbia Stated called "Healing the Fat Girl Within." (I'm sensing a theme here). Normally, I'm not a materialistic sort of person, but lets just say this was one disappointing Christmas. At least Miss Bertha gave me something thoughtful, a complete collection of Emily Dickinson poems (so far my favorite is I'm Nobody!), and Grandma Georgia sent money." (3)

Weight. I'm not denying this one is about weight. Rosemary, "Rosie," is struggling with weight, it's true. But she's struggling with so much more than just weight. This novel is just as much about family--dysfunctional and strange and lovable--as it is about weight. Set in a small town in Tennessee, Rosemary is the "fat" daughter of a single mom with a very bossy and nosy sister. (Don't even get me started on Aunt Mary!!!) They own a beauty shop where Rosie often works helping out.

Rosie authentically captures what it is like to be a teen who is unsatisfied with herself, her family, her life. It captures the experience of growing and becoming and transforming. Blending humor and sarcasm with glimpses of raw truth, Artichoke's Heart is practically perfect in capturing both the angst and hope of teen life.

I loved Rosie. Loved her. I loved Kyle. (Loved, loved, loved him.) And I loved the developing relationships throughout the novel especially the changes that occur between Rosie and her mom. It is difficult, extraordinarily difficult to love and appreciate someone who constantly nags and criticizes. Rosie learning to move past and look beyond her mother and her aunt's often-cruel-and-harsh treatment and seeing the bigger picture is unbelievably wise beyond her years.

This is a novel with heart and soul and substance. It's a novel that gets it right. I'm not saying that Rosie could accurately represent *every* 'fat girl' experience. Each individual is different, of course, and there are always differing circumstances and issues and back stories. (Rosie tends to binge. Not every overweight person does. Portion control is not the issue with some folks.) But the novel does do a good job in realistically portraying the fact that weight isn't really about food--either eating too little, too much, or not the right kinds of food. It's emotional. It's psychological. It's so much more than just food.

This scene, one of my favorites, occurs just after Kyle, a cute basketball playing jock asks Rosie if she'd like to come to see him play in a game:

"Get to class, Miss Goode!" I heard Mr. Lawrence shout from behind me. "Climbing a few stairs won't kill you!" Two thoughts pulsed through my head simultaneously. 1) What would become of all the fat girls in the world if people just treated them nicely? 2) The only people who call me Rosie instead of Rosemary are the ones who loved me. Kyle had just called me Rosie. (80)

Other reviews: Oops, wrong cookie, enduring romance, YA New York,

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Paige Y. said...

You've convinced me -- this one is going on my to read list. It sounds wonderful

Darcie said...

I am so putting this on my TBR list... plus I love artichokes and LOVE this cover. I am reading Sugar Queen and it is about a "thick" girl but I swear the girl on the cover can't be larger than a size 2...I am just having a problem with that...the book is good though.

Anonymous said...

Hadn't heard of this one, sounds great!

Laura H said...

Just finished this book. Loved the characters , loved the writing. Thanks for the great recommendation.

Unknown said...

I just finished this novel as well. As a woman who used to weigh 180 and now weighs 150, I was very upset over the fact that Rosemary is considered obese at 190 or 200!! What kind of message is this sending chubby girls? Don't get me wrong, I understand that Rosemary need to loose the weight as I did, but if we are going to send a positive message through literature about this, should we at least get the stereotypes right? And, Rosemary didn't even come to love herself. She based her entire self-worth on other people's opinions.

Steph said...

Great review! My review (which will be posted in...20 minutes?) links to yours because I kinda quoted on you something :) I agree, LOVED this one.

Also on a note to Ms Cummins - I think obesity is defined by BMI and not personal opinion. That said, if she's of average height (5'5'' or 5'6''), 200 pounds is obese.