Title: Big Fat Disaster
Author: Beth Fehlbaum
Publisher: Merit Press, F+W Media, Inc.
Copyright Date: 2014
Colby Denton is fat and depressed. She feels responsible for the demise of her seemingly perfect family, and she drowns her sorrow in excessive eating. Colby’s father leaves his family for his mistress, and Colby’s mother is left in financial ruin. With nowhere to turn, they are forced to move into a trailer behind an estranged aunt’s house. Colby and her sister, Drew, must attend a new school. The transition is difficult for Colby, and she falls farther and farther into depression.
When a terrible tragedy results in an unexpected death, Colby feels she is given a second chance at life, but she is not sure that she wants it. Wracked by guilt and berated by an supportive mother, Colby must find strength within herself and decide if life is worth living.
This is an incredibly important book for teens to read. It covers a whole spectrum of issues: abuse, suicide, mental illness, divorce, rape, and bullying. Colby has not learned a healthy way to cope with her issues, and the reader witnesses her spiral into despair. Just when it seems that her life is over, she is given another chance. This may inspire hope in teens that are dealing with similar issues and may be contemplating suicide or self-harm.
The personal experiences of the author truly guide the course of the story. Fehlbaum is open about her troubled upbringing and binge eating issues. In many ways, it seems that she is telling her own story through the character of Colby. Like many teens, Colby feels unlovable, but this is far from the case. Colby has many admirable qualities, but she has difficulty seeing past her own obesity. Although I have never personally struggled with weight, I have suffered from body image issues, and I think Colby’s character transformation is inspiring.
Reader’s Annotation: Colby drowns her pain by eating. But the more weight she gains, the worse she feels. Can Colby break the vicious cycle and discover her own beauty?
About the Author:
“In addition to writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Beth Fehlbaum is a secondary English-Language Arts teacher who frequently draws on her experience as an educator to write her books. She has a B.A. in English, Minor in Secondary Education, and an M.Ed. in Reading. She is currently at work on her M.A. in English.
Beth is a survivor of a traumatic childhood, like Ashley in The Patience Trilogy, and the day-to-day manager of an eating disorder much like Colby’s in Big Fat Disaster. These life experiences give her a unique perspective, and she writes her characters’ stories in a way meant to inspire hope. Beth lives with her family in the woods of East Texas.”
Genre: Young adult, realistic fiction
Curriculum Ties: English/Language Arts, Health
- Describe Colby’s blissful feeling when she binge eats.
- Describe how Colby feels moments before she steps in front of the semi truck.
Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12, Ages 14-18
Challenge Issues: Eating disorders, adultery, abuse, rape, suicide, bullying, self harm
Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)
Justification of Selection: Although this novel touches on difficult subject matter, it is a realistic depiction of daily teen struggles and honestly portrays a teen with mental health issues.
Fehlbaum, B. (n.d.). My bio…in which I speak of myself in third person… Beth Fehlbaum Books. Retrieved from http://www.bethfehlbaumbooks.com/bio.html