Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stars Redux and Marilyn Sachs

I'd like to refer readers back to the post on book review stars, where there's something of a discussion going in the comments section among writers and editors. The mentions of Chris Lynch's Inexcusable, a finalist for the National Book Award, and starred in the January 06 issue of the Horn Book, remind me of another book fabulously unreliable in its narrator, Marilyn Sach's The Fat Girl, published in the mid-80s by Dutton. The Horn Book does not seem to have reviewed it, but I remember being a member of ALA's Best Books for Young Adults Committee then and we were all just mad for it. It's a very dark retelling of Pygmalion about a boy, Jeff, who decides to make-over the school fat girl, Ellen. He succeeds to such an extent that she rejects him, and even on the last page, Jeff never realizes the folly of trying to remake another human being--the last line is something like "my mother was right. People just let you down." It's BRILLIANT. I put a copy in the YA collection of the library where I was working at the time and perhaps a year later was looking at it again, and discovered that someone had anonymously written a lengthy note on the endpapers--"Dear reader: I was a fat girl like Ellen, and I met a boy like Jeff. Never let what happens in this story happen to you. . . ." Brrrrrrr.

4 comments:

Sara Z. said...

Marilyn Sachs was my absolute favorite when I was a middle grader coming up in the seventies. I'd read anything about Amy and Laura, Veronica Ganz, and ohhhh the chilling Truth About Mary Rose! Ms. Sachs was the first author to whom I wrote a fan letter. She wrote back. Somehow, though, I missed The Fat Girl. I don't know how that happened. Must rectify!

Andrew Karre said...

Good luck finding it. Neither of the big Twin Cities libraries seem to have it in their systems.

Roger Sutton said...

I've had an interesting note from Marilyn Sachs regarding readers' reactions to The Fat Girl. She writes, "Over the years, many kids -and adults- have written to say what a kind person Jeff was, and to wish that there were more people like him willing to do good, and maybe sacrificing themselves in the doing."

As Paula Fox once said, America has a problem with irony-deficiency.

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