Mona Awad's novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl opens with Lizzie March's unhappy adolescent years, where readers are introduced to an overweight girl who craves acceptance and love. Lizzie is insecure and over-sexualized by everyone around her, to the point where she believes her worth is defined by the attention her appearance elicits. Again and again, Lizzie hears that her only worth is in being skinny. The few men in her life tell her fat girls have to "do anything"--they must please their partners or risk losing them. When she looks in a mirror, she no longer sees herself, or even a person; she sees just a set of flaws she has to fix.
In this way, Awad shapes body shame as a dissociative experience. After she loses weight through restrictive diets and obsessive exercise, Lizzie's life is both comical and miserable. She devolves into a food-obsessed gym rat, whose hours logged on a treadmill leave her feeling wholly without traction in her life. She fixates on constantly controlling her appearance to please others. Awad weaves in cutting humor that makes this tragic story funny and familiar. With tact and wit, Awad captures the pain and absurdity of a disturbing norm that many girls and women are subjected to. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company