Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: Skinny

By Melissa Amster
I had my eye on "Skinny" by Diana Spechler for a while and when I won it from The Next Best Book Blog in a giveaway, I started reading it as soon as it arrived in the mail. I was able to devour it the same way Gray Lachmann, Ms. Spechler's heroine, devours a Chinese Buffet before she starts her job at a weight loss camp.

Gray Lachmann's world is turned upside down when her father dies of a heart attack, and she blames herself for his death. She becomes a compulsive over-eater, hiding her addiction to food from her boyfriend, a stand-up comedian for whom she had been selling tickets. After finding out about a woman from her father's past, she applies for a counselor job at a weight loss camp in order to meet the woman's daughter, as she believes they are half-sisters. However, the camp is not what it seems and Gray learns new truths about herself and about human nature during her eight weeks there.

I was extremely impressed by this novel. The narrative style is excellent, drawing the reader in from the very beginning and not letting go, even after the story is finished. Ms. Spechler's observations of eating behaviors made me look at the way I eat even more introspectively. Her secondary characters seem like exaggerations at first, but they're dynamic and interesting throughout the story, even when they're not seen on every page, I could feel their presence carrying the book along. She delves into the topic of Judaism, but it doesn't take away from the story. It's there as part of Gray's history and shows how her father's beliefs have affected her relationship with him. The descriptions of food are absolutely mouth-watering, even when they're the kinds of things I wouldn't even think of touching. The best thing about this novel were all the surprises stored within. I didn't feel any predictability at any point while reading it. I liked Ms. Spechler's use of foreshadowing. I don't usually see that in novels and it kept me in suspense, wondering what could possibly happen next.

Ms. Spechler uses a lot of metaphors and symbolism in "Skinny." Sometimes I felt they took away from the story. There was one thing that I felt went unanswered, even when it was right in front of my face. I wanted to see that thing addressed for Gray so that it would confirm my beliefs. Having said that, I also felt Gray often tended to waffle. She'd be all confident one moment and then needy and self-loathing the next. I also had trouble visualizing her. There was a small description in the beginning, but it didn't stick with me enough. Everyone else seemed so easy to visualize, in contrast. Maybe because her name was Gray, she was meant to blend in or be seem as bland in comparison, even when being described as beautiful or those moments when she had confidence in her appearance.

Overall, I really liked this novel and have been recommending it to anyone who wants an interesting story. It's heavier than a summer beach read, but the feel of summer is on every page so it could be enjoyed poolside, if one wished to read it there. It made me want to read Ms. Spechler's previous novel, "Who by Fire" (99 cents on Kindle) as well as anything she produces in the future.

More novels with a similar theme/plot:


Anne R. Allen said...

Great review. Thanks for being honest about your own preferences and not candy coating what you didn't like. But it makes me want to read the book anyway--the sign of a really good reviewer.

I read a wonderful interview with Diana on Nina Bazdin's blog, and this review has sealed the deal. I MUST read this book.

It's a subject that was OK to talk about for a while, (like by Jennifer Weiner) but then it became taboo again, so this book sounds brave and honest.

Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting. Plus, I have to say, I like the cover.