The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

“The truth is, if you want to be a Model Brewster Student, you have to dress a certain way (preppy/urban/chic) and look a certain way (white/skinny/flawless skin). Except, of course, when Brewster is taking pictures for their promotional books. Then the Model Brewster Student is black/Asian/Latino/Indian/biracial, but still skinny and without a zit in sight.”

Genre: Fiction, Bildungsroman

Book Jacket Synopsis: “Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and obeys the ‘Fat Girl Code of Conduct.’ Then there are the other Shreveses: Mom is an exercise fiend and adolescent psychologist; Dad, when not jet-setting, or golfing in Connecticut, ogles skinny women on TV; and older siblings Byron and Anais are slim, brilliant, and impossible to live up to. Delete Virginia, and the Shreveses are a picture-perfect family… until a phone call changes everything.”

Review: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things ended up being a really pleasant surprise for me. I remember this book being quite popular when I was in middle school, but I didn’t got around to reading it until now. I thoroughly enjoyed following Virginia’s personal progression throughout the novel; Carolyn Mackler did an excellent job in creating a relatable heroine, one that you end up genuinely rooting for. Indeed, Virginia has such an endearing way of interacting with and processing the people and events in her life. Through Virginia, Mackler is able to tackle some tricky subjects (i.e., body image, self-harm, sexuality, date rape) in a tasteful and respectful manner. While the book does get off to bit of a slow start, Virginia’s journey from self-conscious misfit to confident, outgoing daughter and student makes this book a quick and enjoyable read. I’m not alone in my praise for this book either; in addition to other accolades, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things was named the 2004 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, a 2004 American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and the International Reading Association’s 2005 Young Adults’ Choice.

Reason for Ban/Challenge: This book has been banned in multiple schools (particularly middle schools) for sexual content, profane language, and ‘anti-family’ content. In response to these bans, particularly to a superintendent’s decision to ban the book from an entire school district (a decision that was later reversed after over 350 students signed a petition to bring the book back), Carolyn Mackler had this to say:

“Virginia stands up to a family who really treat her badly. If that’s anti-family, I’m okay with that. A lot of teen novels have similar situations. I don’t think it’s more or less graphic than other teenage books.”

I would have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with her.




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