Jun 8, 2013

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bill Wright, is featured as a popular paperback in the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.  Carlos is a gay teenager dead-set on getting a makeup sales job at Macy's.  Along with working toward his loft goal, Carlos grapples with his sister's homophobic and abusive boyfriend, his mother's unemployment, his crush on a straight boy, his best friend's image issues, and his chance to help a TV star with sensitive skin.  It's a lot for a teen to handle. 

I would classify this novel as realistic fiction for it's portrayal of homophobia and bullying, as well as the concentration on familial relationships.  But the realism definitely takes a backseat when Carlos is at work, particularly when working for a celebrity.  And that's fine, because it incorporates some fun alongside difficult topics.  The book is funny, emotional and overly ridiculous at times, but I can understand why teens would find the often self-absorbed Carlos an empathetic and entertaining character.  It's a great touch that Carlos acknowledges throughout the novel that he is self-absorbed, but then just keeps on being himself.  He's a great son, brother and friend. He knows he doesn't have to change; he knows he's fabulous.  Without the acknowledgment, he might be a little more tough to take. 

That being said, I'll be honest, I wasn't a big fan of this selection.  While certainly funny with a few poignant moments of self-realization, family and friendship, ultimately the novel lacked some sort of oomph. Perhaps, Wright bit off more plot than he could chew. The novel ends without closure for basically every story element.  While it's not an unusual tactic for an author to take, in this particular novel, it felt a little lazy.

There is mention of domestic abuse and one scene of physical bullying. Outside of these instances, the novel is fairly mild in language and plot, so I would definitely recommend this to mature middle-schoolers through 10th graders.

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