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Chris Crutcher

Paula's Young Adult Literature Website

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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Crutcher, Chris. 1993. STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 0688115527.


STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES is a wonderfully crafted and tender story of friendship between two outcasts.  Eric Calhoune, known as Moby, and Sarah Byrnes, whom demands to be called by her first and last names, are best friends.  The story is told through first person narrative by Eric, the young protagonist in the story.  He is overweight and has been the butt of many fat jokes for years thus resulting in the nickname Moby.  Sarah was badly burned when she was three years old by pulling a pot of boiling spaghetti over on her, or so she says.  The two were joined together because of their “terminal uglies,” but they have become genuine friends and truly watch out for each other.  Eric is a member of the swim team and has begun to shed some of his unwanted pounds and gain other friendships.  To preserve his friendship with Sarah he begins to eat feverishly to maintain his weight.  Sarah discovers Eric’s motive for eating and lets him off of the hook because she knows his friendship is genuine and she also threatens to beat him senseless.  As this thought provoking novel opens, Eric is visiting Sarah in a psychiatric hospital because she has mysteriously quit talking and is in a coma like state.  As Eric visits Sarah, their story begins to unfold and we find out the many trials and tribulations the two have gone through together.  As Eric continues to visit Sarah he begins to discover the horrifying truth about Sarah’s burns and is determined to help save her from the physical and psychological pain she has suffered since childhood.  Chris Crutcher has created two very strong characters that grow and evolve as the story progresses and really allows the reader to feel compassion for each one.  He has meticulously woven some sensitive topics into the storyline.  According to The ALAN Review, “Crutcher handles difficult topics such as abuse, abortion, and religious rigidity with his characteristic intelligence, humor, and empathy.”  This award winning novel is beautifully written with humor, compassion, and sensitivity and presents many themes that are of interest to young adults today.  School Library Journal states, “This type of novel is what many of today’s YAs are looking for: sophisticated characters and plot, with a healthy sense of black humor.”  


Joan Lowery Nixon            

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