When Mattie has issues with her weight, she decides to take charge of her life, redo her image, find confidence and maybe even dare to talk to guys. Will a change in lifestyle, a friend, a tormentor, and a dream guy help Mattie discover her real self and find romance along the way?
Targeted Age Group:: 12 and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
So many girls struggle with weight issues and body image, and often try to solve what they see as a problem in ways that are not totally healthy. I wanted to show a girl who takes on the problem in a positive manner and who also learns that others might see her in a different, even better, light than she sees herself.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I’m always observing other people and I take bits and pieces of them to use in my characters, plus, of course, a lot of my own imagination.
I curled my toes as I stepped barefoot onto the cold metal scale in Dr. Adam’s office. I exhaled, then held my breath. Maybe I’d weigh a few ounces less if I didn’t have so much air in my lungs.
I watched carefully as the numbers blinked higher and higher.
Finally, Dr. Adam marked the weight on my chart. She looked up at me and smiled. “You need to lose twenty pounds.”
Twenty pounds! Ack! I wanted to scream. “But, Dr. Adam, I think I, um, carry my weight well.”
“‘Carry’ is a good word, Mattie,” Dr. Adam said. “It’s not good for you to lug that extra weight around.” She glanced at the computer screen. “I see by your records that you’ve always had a tendency to be plump.” She printed out something. “Here’s a sample of a good diet. You should be able to lose a pound or two a week, especially if you exercise more.” She printed out another piece of paper. “Here are some exercises you might want to try. Move around. Walk more. Your muscles are too soft for a girl of sixteen.”
“I’ll try,” I mumbled, as I looked over the diet. There was totally no point in arguing with Dr. Adam. She was all business. Why did Dr. Murdock have to retire? He never said anything about my weight.
After Dr. Adam left the examination room I stepped into my jeans, sucking in my stomach as I tugged on the zipper. I pulled on my baggy brown sweater and stuffed the diet and exercise sheets into my book bag. As I stepped into the hall, Dr. Adam called out.
“Make an appointment for an official weigh-in two months from now, Mattie.”
I tried to look invisible, but it didn’t work. As I made another appointment, I thought I felt the eyes of everyone in the waiting room staring at me. I hurried out of the office hugging my books to my chest and fighting back angry tears. Ugh. Dr. Adam didn’t have to be so … so bossy.
At least my parents would sympathize. They knew it wasn’t my fault I was a throwback to my great Aunt Matilda, for whom I was named. The resemblance wasn’t limited to wide-set green eyes and frizzy brown hair. We had the same fleshy build.
I moaned to myself at the thought of exercising. Not that I minded exercise so much. It was the side effects. Like, you know, heavy breathing. Sweating. My idea of strenuous labor was picking cat hairs off the sofa cushions.
And, I suddenly realized, this afternoon I had just allowed myself to be talked into heading the refreshment committee for my Junior Prom. A couple years ago the principal decided that all school dances, including proms, had to be at the school. He said they were getting too expensive and parents complained. He insisted on student-made refreshments and decorations to keep costs down too. So that meant, while watching my weight, I had to dig through recipe books for rich, yummy, calorie-laden cookies. I pondered the complete injustice of it all.
“Watch where you’re going, Chunk!” ordered the tall, bony, red-haired guy I had just slammed into and almost knocked over, since I hadn’t, in fact, been watching where I was going.
Startled by the impact, I dropped my book bag. Everything in it went all over the sidewalk. I frantically gathered my papers, shoved them into the nearest book and dumped the books back into the bag. I’d sort it all out later. If there was anyone I didn’t want to know about my enforced dieting, it was George Turner. He bugged me enough as it was.
Well, I’d show George. I would lose twenty pounds. That wasn’t so much, really. I probably carried home twenty pounds of books from school every day. And when I was thin, if George ever dared to call me Chunk, I could just totally smile and tell him not refer to me by such an inappropriate nickname. Yeah, I’d show George.
But now I had to figure out how I was going to find a guy for the prom. As head of the refreshment committee, I would have to be there. However, I didn’t want to go alone and wind up with the eighth graders, passing out cookies and punch all night.
Just how was I going to snag a guy? Sometimes it seemed as if I was the only sixteen-year-old girl in Waterside, Connecticut who’d never managed to do that. Okay, the population of Waterside was small enough that I was one out of only a couple hundred students instead of thousands, but still. Maybe losing weight was a good idea. Maybe when I was thinner getting a guy wouldn’t be such a problem. Maybe I could even find someone special. Someone like … Kevin Laconia.
Kevin had moved to Waterside a year ago, and I, along with the entire female population, had noticed him right away. And not just because Waterside was such a small school that all newcomers were seriously scrutinized.
I mean, what girl could resist one of the few guys at Waterside High who was not only tall and broad-shouldered, but totally great looking, with his wavy dark hair and thick-lashed gray eyes? The corners of his mouth turned up so that even when he was serious he had a good-to-see-you smile that lead even the shyest girls to think that entering his world was possible.
Unfortunately, blonde, beautiful, etc., Nicole Sandhurst got her perfectly manicured claws into him first. Nicole upheld the family tradition, established by her mother, of going with only the best looking, most popular guys. Nicole’s mother had not only been Junior Prom Queen and Senior Cotillion Queen, but at nineteen had reigned as Miss Connecticut in the Miss America Pageant. Nicole had a lot to live up to.
I almost dropped my books all over the sidewalk again. I recognized the voice of the person behind me who had said hi. Though my heart pounded, I tried to sound composed. I turned around, but avoided looking into his eyes. “Hi, Kevin.”
It was then that I also noticed Walter Mattesky. “Oh. Hi, Walt.”
“Hello, Mattie!” Walt tipped an imaginary hat.
I knew Walt since forever. He was a good guy, but he often behaved and talked in a sort of formal way, probably because his dad wrote an etiquette column for a magazine.
Too bad I wouldn’t be walking alone with Kevin. But maybe it was just as well. I wasn’t sure I had the nerve to talk to Kevin by myself, anyway. I did want to say something, however, to break the silence that seemed to hang in the air like a limp balloon. For once a topic of conversation occurred to me. Timidly I asked, “Are you set for the game tonight?”
Okay, it wasn’t the most original question in the world, but if Waterside won, we’d go to the state basketball tournament for the first time in five years. Kevin was a starting player. Walt, who came up to my lower lip, was the team manager. He kept track of the basketballs and team jackets, and handed out towels.
“We’re ready!” Walt exclaimed, pointing his index finger to the sky.
“Ready as I’ll ever be.” Kevin smiled and raised one eyebrow. “Are you going, Mattie?”
“Yes,” I said, trying to sound matter of fact about it. I wouldn’t miss it for anything since Kevin would be there, but, of course, I couldn’t let him know that.
“Great.” Kevin squeezed my shoulder and turned to cross the street. “See you there.”
“So long,” said Walt.
“B-bye,” I stammered. Kevin actually touched my shoulder! I could still feel the warmth of his hand. I strayed off the sidewalk right into the gutter.
“Mattie, this is the way home.” Walt cupped his hand under my elbow and guided me back up the curb and around the corner.
“What?” I ran my fingers through my hair, trying to hide the fact that I was blushing. “I mean, uh, I was thinking about the, uh, refreshments for the prom and I guess I forgot to watch where I was going.”
“I wanted to talk to you about the prom,” said Walt.
“Oh?” I looked down into Walt’s golden brown, owl like eyes. “What about it?”
“As you know, I’m in charge of decorations.”
“Our theme this year is ‘Underwater Fantasy.”
“Well,” he said eagerly, “how ’bout if we form a joint committee to coordinate the decorations and refreshments?”
“That might work,” I said. I had to admit that for as long as I’d known him Walt always came up with good ideas. “What have you thought of so far?”
“We could have cookies shaped like shells, starfish, even doubloons—underwater treasure aspect, you see—and make the punch green. Like seawater. What do you think?”
“The cookie idea sounds good. Let me think about the punch tonight and we can talk about it some more tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Walt said. “I’ll stop by your house on the way to school and we can talk about it then.”
“Sure. Wait! No.” I had an idea on how to get some exercise. “I’ll stop by your house on the way to school.”
“But I live a half mile farther from school than you do.”
“That’s just it. Uh, I mean, we’ll have more time to talk. And besides, I could always use a bit more exercise.” I forced a small laugh, trying to sound nonchalant.
Walt didn’t question my motives. “Fine. Seven-thirty?”
“Great. See you then.” I smiled to myself. I had found an inconspicuous way to get some exercise. I wouldn’t have to be tempted by cookies and punch—I could think of them as shells and seawater. Also, I had more reason than ever to stick with my new weight loss plan. Kevin.
Kevin had put his hand on my shoulder. Kevin had asked if I was going to the game. Kevin had said he would see me there.
I couldn’t wait to tell Erwina!
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