Slob, by Ellen Potter (May 14, 2009, Philomel Books, 197 pp)
Every day, 12-year old Owen gets three oreo cookies in his lunch. They give him a moment of bliss, no matter how bad the school day. Even though he would rather eat a whole package, he's smart enough (with an IQ just shy of genius), to know that he's plenty fat already. It's hard for him to forget, what with the constant reminders from his sadistic gym teacher and sundry classmates. But his cookies comfort him.
At home, more comfort comes from his work on Nemesis, a mass of tangled wire coils and hardware that Owen and his little sister have scavenged from demolition sites. Nemesis, if successful, will let him watch what was shown on television on a certain night two years ago. When he wasn't fat.
Then one day someone takes the oreos from his lunch box. And it happens again, and again. The obvious suspect is the new kid, the one with the scary scar, rumored to have a switchblade in his sock. Owen decides it is time to take action...
Although Owen, an engrossing and sympathetic narrator, is front and center, his little sister, Jeremy, has an engrossing and powerful sub-plot of her own. She is, in fact, one of the most engaging fictional little sisters I've encountered for a while, and her presence in the book adds a lot.
Slob isn't "a story about a fat boy," although Owen is fat. Nor it is about the misery of middle school, although that is there too. It is much more, and Potter does an incredibly skillful job moving delicately from the mystery of the cookies to larger story arcs of love and loss and growing up. (It made me cry a bit at the end).
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