Friday, September 5, 2014

Gay-girl gay

I rose in the middle of the night to catch a plane at 5:40 a.m. to come visit my mom in Iowa City, Iowa -- so 11 hours later I am completely exhausted -- but determined to use all my free time over the next five days (when I'm not helping her unpack in her new apartment) to at least throw away one part of the crappy notes I've been scribbling down about the audiobooks I listened to this summer.

Which brings me to e.E. Charlton-Trujillo's Fat Angie, part of my (why-do-I-set-these-ridiculous) goals to read all of the 2014 ALA award winners since I did such a lousy job of reading books for youth last year. (I'm tantalizingly close to completion.) This one was one of two Stonewall winners of the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children's and Young Adult Literature Award. Since I have a young friend currently struggling with gender identity at the moment, I'm reading these books with interest.

Fat Angie is fat. She also wears (every single day) a too-tight bright-yellow tee shirt proclaiming membership on the girls' basketball team that belonged to her sister. Fat Angie is the only person who believes that her sister -- last reported captured in Afghanistan -- is still alive, and thinks if she keeps wearing the shirt (without benefit of laundry), she'll somehow keep her sister alive and her fracturing family together. Do I need to say, Fat Angie is relentlessly bullied, particularly since she publicly attempted suicide in front of a pep rally, shouting "We're all killers!" Then KC Romance blows into school.

KC doesn't care what others think and she takes a shine to Fat Angie. And as an intrigued Fat Angie slowly lets KC in on her darkest secrets, Angie might be able to begin coping with her losses. Fat Angie makes the momentous decision to try out for the girls' basketball team; despite her obvious lack of athletic ability, Fat Angie has a mean jump shot.

But just as Fat Angie thinks she might be falling in love, it turns out KC Romance has some secrets of her own.

There's nothing really new here, including the gay angle. At times it feels overloaded: weight issues, cutting, and unprofessional therapists added to the aforementioned bullying, dysfunctional families (skedaddling dad, fat-obsessed mother and drug-dealing adoptive brother) and lesbians. But for young readers who enjoy this type of story, Fat Angie does experience triumph, love and ultimately grief in a teen "problem" novel resolution way. I particularly didn't like the continual reference to Fat Angie only by her name, although this might be a drawback of listening. Eventually, the pronoun 'she' does show up (and I no longer remember the circumstances), but at that point it would seem to filled with some meaning, but there was no meaning that I could discern.

The book is read by Angela Dawe, who reads the book in an declamatory and emphatic manner which I'm going to guess is her way of providing the aural equivalent of Charlton-Trujillo's distancing technique that is the result of the (over) use of Fat Angie's (and other characters) proper names. As I said above, the constant repetition of Fat Angie grew tiresome. The whole package  makes this book kind of exhausting to listen to. On the other hand, I'm not sure I could have stuck with it in print.

Dawe does do a pretty good job with the novel's character voices. The boys sound uniformly realistic, and KC's voice sounds sultry and seductive (not in a pervy way). Angie's therapist's notes are read occasionally in a condescending fashion that is actually pretty funny. So, it's kind of a mixed-bag audiobook-wise.

Any author with an obviously not-born-with-it name will often set me off as well, but I enjoyed Charlton-Trujillo's explanation that she chose to honor two favorite writers: e.e. cummings and S.E. Hinton (although unlike The Outsiders, there's no doubt in my mind that Fat Angie was written by a woman). That's compelling enough that I guess I don't really need to know what those 'e's actually stand for. Charlton-Trujillo is also involved with television, but when I try to reach the website that features those activities, I get this message: "You have tried to access a web page which is in violation of your internet usage policy. Category: Malicious Websites." I didn't know I had an internet usage policy. Do you think it's because I'm on the network for the old folks' home? Curious.

[Fat Angie's sister's lucky tee shirt proclaims her a member of her school's Hornet's Nest. This enormous hornet's nest resides in the Bee Museum in Nakagawa, Japan. The photograph was taken by Mukasora and was retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Narrated by Angela Dawe
Candlewick on Brilliance Audio, 2013 [although the end credits indicate that the "performance copyright" is 2012] . 6:27

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