Title: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
Author: Carolyn Mackler
Narrator: Johanna Parker
ISBN: 1419318179
Discs: 5 CDs/6 hours
Pages: 291 pages
Publisher/Date: Recorded Books, LLC, c2004.

It’s not like Froggy Welsh the Fourth is a huge catch. First of all, there’s his name. Not a nickname for Frank or Frederick or even Frog. I’m still shocked that his great-great grandparents named a son Froggy. But what astounds me to no end is that three subsequent generations decided to follow suit.
Froggy is medium height and slender. His ruffled blond hair crests into a cowlick. His dollop of a nose reminds me of a lamb’s snout. Especially since it’s always pinkish, probably from so much tweaking. Whenever his pubescent voice cracks, he sounds like a screeching chicken. Put his name and traits together and you’ve got a farm. (8)

This is the boy who Virginia Shreves is allowing to make out with her every Monday after school, before her parents come home and before he has to go to trombone lessons. Needless to say, this is the first of many less than perfect aspects about her life, especially when she compares her larger-than-average self to her feminist older sister Anais and her idolized off-to-college brother Byron. Life is perfect for them, at least, until the family receives news that shatters their efforts of a perfect life.

Carolyn Mackler tries to do a LOT with this book. It opens with Virginia and Froggy making out, and although it doesn’t go below the belt, the adolescent anguish is obviously there for Virginia and Froggy. Then “the phone call,” during which idolized big brother is charged with date raping another college student after a “Sluts and Virgins” party (the more skin you bear, the less admission you pay). The parents are not there physically or emotionally, and it’s painful to listen to their stilted interaction with their children. Virginia’s hardships are enhanced by her older sister’s year abroad, for her sister served as Virginia’s confidant and provided her some guidance. Virginia’s best friend is also not there, having moved to Washington, which Virginia secretly books a plane ticket to visit her and they each get piercings without their parents’ knowledge. Finally, Virginia flirts with the possibility of self mutilation and anorexia, pinching herself until she’s black and blue, burning her hand on a candle, and abstaining from eating for days except with the family.

While Mackler doesn’t succeed at addressing hardly any of these hard-hitting, difficult problems with any sort of depth, I think it is her triumph at the end of the novel that especially girl readers will enjoy the most. The book has won a Printz Honor which I was a little surprised to learn, along with several other less “distinguished” awards. I can understand why teens would enjoy it, and there were spots in the audiobook where I got caught up in the narration. But there are still other parts where I was thinking to myself “What else can go wrong with this poor girl?” The thing that saves the conflicts is the writing style, which is inflicted with equal parts adolescent attitude, self-deprecation, and wit.

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