Monday, April 14, 2008
Fat Kid Rules the World
Going, K.L. 2003. Fat Kid Rules the World.
I'm a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform staring at the tracks. I'm seventeen years old, weigh 296 pounds, and I'm six-foot-one. I have a crew cut, yes a crew cut, sallow skin, and the kind of mouth that puckers when I breathe. I'm wearing a shirt that reads Miami Beach--Spring Break 1997, and huge, bland tan pants--the only kind of pants I own. Eight pairs, all tan.
It's Sunday afternoon and I'm standing just over the yellow line trying to decide whether people would laugh if I jumped. Would it be funny if the Fat Kid got splattered by a subway train? Is that funny? I'm not being facetious; I really want to know. Like it or not, apparently there's something funny about fat people. Something unpredictable. Like when I put on my jacket and everyone in the hallway stifles laughter. Or when I stand up after sitting in the cafeteria and Jennifer Maraday, Brooke Rodriguez, and Amy Glover all bust a gut. I don't get angry. I just think, What was funny about that? Did my butt jiggle? Did I make the bench creak so loud that it sounded like a fart? Did I leave an indentation? There's got to be something, right? Right?
So it's not a stretch to be standing on the wrong side of the yellow line giving serious thought to whether people would laugh if I threw myself in front of the F train. And that's the one thing that can't happen. People can't laugh. Even I deserve a decent suicide.
Meet Troy Billings. Told in first person, the novel is one of life lost and found. Troy, ready to jump, or at least ready to think about being ready to jump is a young man who thinks he has nothing to live for. Until. And I love this until. Until he meets the most unlikeliest of friends. Curt MacCrae, a homeless teenager of legendary status in the music world. A former student at Troy's school, Troy knows--or thinks he knows--all about Curt MacCrae. The coolest of the cool. But also the skinniest of the skinny.
In this relationship, it's never quite clear (to them or to the reader) who is saving who. 2 kids. 2 sets of problems or issues. 1 unlikely dream. Curt wants--or needs--Troy to be his drummer. The problem? Troy doesn't know how to drum. He has the dream--most boys his age do--of being in a band, a punk band. But he doesn't have the know-how. But Curt is there to see that this is one dream becomes reality.
It's an unlikely pairing. It's an unusual book. But I liked it. I really liked. I had my doubts. His family, Troy's family, seems a bit dysfunctional, a bit disconnected in the beginning. Which of course mirrors how Troy feels about his family life. But as he discovers who he is and what he wants and needs, Troy's family is there with him. His brother. His father. Both are there and willing to stay there, to stay a part of his life. Troy finds out day by day just how lucky he is.
Troy has a big problem. He thinks of himself as 'the fat kid.' His self-esteem (his self-confidence) is non-existent because he believes the lies he tells himself. Through his relationships with Curt and his friends as well as his changing relationships with his family, Troy is becoming someone he can like, someone he can respect, someone he can love.