4 out of 4 stars
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In The Fatness, Mark A. Rayner describes a Canada where everything is dictated by BMI. In an attempt to improve overall health of its citizens, the Canadian government created Calorie Reduction Centers (CRCs) where citizens with BMIs over 30 could focus on their diets and learn better eating and exercise habits. Everything would be voluntary, of course. The only catch would be that if the citizens entered the program and couldn't lose weight within two years, their employers would be able to fire them. Oh, and the whole, "Fat people can't have health insurance" thing. That made things pretty involuntary for most people.
Unable to pay for his own medical insurance and willing to lose weight, Keelan Cavanaugh entered the CRCs almost two years ago. The day where he may lose his job is looming on the horizon, and yet he's still more than a few pounds away from the magical BMI of 30. Then he meets the beautiful and slim Jacinda Williams, a lawyer who is researching the CRCs. The two fall in love despite the overwhelming difference in their waists, and Keelan finds the motivation and willpower he needed to lose those last few pounds and get out for good. That is until a change of hands in the CRCs' management turns his live-in diet resort into a literal prison.
The Fatness is hysterically funny, taking the side of the fatties (and if you think that's offensive, you should see some of the other names they're called) and pointing out the flaws in both social and weight-loss systems that keep them from losing weight. The satire is witty and surprisingly sharp, coming from a Canadian. In fact, the passive-aggressive natures of the characters, who were under a large amount of stress, coupled with the back-handed insults were what made this book so funny. Rayner also did a good job calling out the health and food industry for all the things we know they're doing wrong, and yet forgive them for anyway because we're addicted to something they provide.
Besides the satire, I really enjoyed the way Rayner built upon the plot, taking a simple story of progress and determination and adding in twists and turns. I thought he handled the pacing very well, drawing on his own experiences in weight loss to create a realistic story that any reader could empathize with.
In terms of weaknesses, the book had a few small errors, mostly with regards to punctuation and spacing. Also, I personally had a hard time understanding some of the things Max, another main character, was saying. I'm not sure if it's because he was referring to Canadian things and I'm American, or if it was because he was on recreational hallucinogens and didn't make much sense to begin with. In any case, I didn't have any problems understanding the gist of things and probably wrote him off as much as the other characters did.
I had a great time reading The Fatness. I sympathized so much with Keelan and his struggles, hanging on to every word to see what would happen next, how corrupt the system could become. I would absolutely give The Fatness 4 out of 4 stars despite the minor errors sparsed throughout the book. I would also highly recommend it to friends and family members, as well as anyone who's struggling or who has ever struggled to lose weight. However, there are brief mentions of sex and drugs, so I would not recommend it to younger readers.
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