Troy Billings is seventeen, 296 pounds, friendless, utterly miserable, and about to step off a New York subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Until he meets Curt MacCrae, an emaciated, semi-homeless, high school dropout guitar genius, the stuff of which Lower East Side punk rock legends are made. Never mind that Troys dad thinks Curts a drug addict and Troys brother thinks Troys the biggest (literally) loser in Manhattan. Soon, Curts recruited Troy as his new drummereven though Troy cant play the drums. Together, Curt and Troy will change the world of punk, and Troys own life, forever. -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts: I chose to read Fat Kid Rules The World because it is a 2004 Printz Award Honor recipient, qualifying it for the Award Winning Reads Challenge. In the beginning, I had to fight with myself to finish it, but I’m glad I stuck with it because I totally understand why this book was recognized and honored.
This book was very tough for me to read. It was tough because the main character, Troy Billings, has the worst self-esteem of any book character that I think I have ever met. He belittles himself constantly and refers to himself as “Fat Kid.” It was heartbreaking to me that somebody could go through life feeling that poorly about himself. It was also tough because Curt MacCrae, the homeless punk rocker, was perfectly content living in his terrible and dangerous conditions. The way Troy and Curt were co-dependent on each other was just…depressing to me. In addition, I thought the dynamic between Troy, his Dad, and his brother was uncomfortable. (Fathers who are uncomfortable expressing their feelings to their children make me uncomfortable.) And Troy’s brother was so, so mean for the majority of the book.
Troy spends a little bit of time in the book talking about how he always feels like people are looking at him because of his size.
“We walk past everyone who’s been standing in line for God knows how long and I can feel their eyes boring into me as we pass. I will myself to become small and compact, but it doesn’t work. I am huge and obese.” -Troy Billings
This is such a huge theme in life, I think. Lots of people feel this way. It may not be about size…it may be because of a handicap, or hair color, or skin color, or anything that makes a person feel self-conscious. My eight-year-old daughters recently felt like everyone was looking at them when they got glasses for the first time. This is something people have to learn to come to terms with and sort of ‘get over’ in their own way, and if they can’t or don’t, life can be so miserable for them…like it was for Troy. Until he found the drums…
If there was an area of the book that I felt I could connect to, it was the music. I am a music-lover. I am a frequent concert-goer. I am very well-versed in the feelings Troy experienced the first time he attended a concert. When he was there, he felt invisible and yet part of something bigger than himself, and I totally understand that feeling.
“I’m six-foot-one, three hundred pounds, and no one is looking at me.” -Troy Billings
Any hesitance I felt about Troy before he picked up the drumsticks began to diminish as he began to learn the drums. Troy found something to love, and that took up all of the space inside him where his self-hatred once lived. All the time he spent practicing and playing the drums replaced the time he spent self-loathing and belittling himself.
How excellent for this to be a young adult book! For any young person that is struggling with any type of insecurity to read about Troy and how he learned to slowly overcome his issues…that is awesome. K.L. Going has written a book that teaches young people that finding a hobby or a craft or a ‘thing’ and sticking with it is GOOD. It’s good because it can give you purpose and an identity that is positive. This book also teaches that if you don’t do well at something the first time, try again.
I love how Troy changes from the beginning of the book to the end. It is a huge and remarkable change for a character in such a short book. But also remarkable are the changes that Curt, Troy’s Dad, and Troy’s brother undergo. All of these major characters make huge changes in themselves, and these changes positively impact each of the other characters. It is SO COOL how Ms. Going linked these guys together so well.
This is not a feel-good, easy, summer, beachy type of book…so I would not recommend it to any person asking for a recommendation. However, there are instances where this book would be perfect. Any younger YA reader should read it JUST BECAUSE. (I wonder if it is required reading? I don’t know; my children aren’t that old yet. But I am curious.) I am not sure that adult readers would particular love this one. It worked for this challenge, and I am really glad that I read it.