Monday, August 18, 2014

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden
Published: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Koehler Books
Pages: 300
Received: review copy from author for blog tour
Find it online: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads 

Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems. 

Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”

Oh how I loved Bethany's (aka Beth Ain't Thiny) story. Her struggles with weight, with life and with love remind me of how there are many people out there needing a story like this to help them make change. This book is inspirational, but not in a follow-what-I-tell-you-and-all-your-troubles-will-go-away kind of book. It shows us a teenage girl who is going through some of the most important years of her life and dealing with issues of self image and self worth. She's not happy and blames everyone else. She eats to medicate and make herself feel better. 

Going to FAT CAMP isn't her idea of a fun summer, but off she goes to please her mother and to get away from her life. I found Bethany's sassy quips to be spot on. Make others laugh so they don't see the real you - the one who doesn't like her weight, but doesn't know what to do about it. She has anger issues and uses her sarcastic humour to push people away. 

Little does she realize that going to Camp Utopia might just be the best thing for her. Not just to help her lose weight and get her eating under control, but to form lasting friendships, to forgive people who have wronged her and to forgive herself. She learns about real love and realizes that in the past she mistook a friendship for love and was hurt when the guy didn't reciprocate her feelings. Bee learns what it's like to free herself from all of the secrets and to start new.

There are some absolutely hilarious parts in the book that will have you laughing out loud and some parts that will make you look back and see if you ever felt the way and of the campers did at one time or another. 

Bee was an interesting heroine in this book  - she grows up a lot in the last quarter of the book, changes her outlook on many things including love, and transforms into a new person. Perhaps the person peaking through is the true Bethany that was masked by all of the weight she put on in order to hide from everyone. 

And let's not forget THE FORGIVENESS DIET - where you write down all of the people you forgive and what you forgive them for, place the pieces of paper in a jar and let them go. This leads you to losing weight as you free yourself from the burdens placed upon you by others. Bee is hilarious in her emails to the Forgiveness Diet makers. Pretty much calling them out for promoting a diet that she thinks doesn't really wok. I have a feeling that this diet isn't just for people to lose weight, but you'll have to read the book to see what I mean.

Oh and one last detail - Gabe. What a sweetheart he is. I think he might have been one of the last pieces of the puzzle for Bee. Everything started falling into place when Gabe and Bee finally get to know one another. It's a sweet relationship - exactly what she needed to fill her sweet tooth.

About the Author:
Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon and has worked with teenagers for many years as a teacher of Reading, Writing, and GED. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She does a near-flawless impersonation of a normal person. Don’t be fooled. She’s a writer.

1 comment:

  1. Bee and Gabe sound like fantastic characters! I'm glad you enjoyed their story.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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