Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Crutcher, Chris.  Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes. Greenwillow Books.  2003 (First published in 1993). ISBN 0060094893

Reader’s Annotation: Two misfits, Eric and Sarah Byrnes, banned together against the world that could be so cruel. Now Sarah has gone silent and Eric has to figure out why before both of them find themselves in even deeper troubles.

Plot Summary: Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoun have been friends as they bonded together as Eric was ridiculed for his weight and Sarah Byrnes for her scarred face after having a pot of boiling spaghetti fall on her when she was 3 years old. They have endured their fellow classmates scorn for years but now Sarah is in the hospital not talking or responding to anyone. Eric is determined to find out what happens but the answer may put both he and Sarah into even deeper trouble.

This is not normally a book I would have picked up but it was amazing!  Be warned going in this book will be an emotional roller coaster.  So many issues are covered in this book and yet they all work well together.  Eric has had to deal with being overweight for most of his life and even when he starts slimming down he feels the need to stay fat in order to keep Sarah as a friend.  Sarah has developed this tough facade to deal with the pain she has to face everyday when people look at her and see her scarred face.  As the story goes on we learn more about what brought about the incident that gave Sarah those scars and her relationship with her father who refused any reconstructive surgery because he felt she needed to “toughen up”.  It is horrifying to imagine anyone going through what she has and not received any help.

Though the relationship between Sarah Byrnes and Eric dominates the storyline we also see other issues teens face like teenage pregnancy, abortion and religious beliefs.  There are some situations that may be a bit intense for younger readers but still an amazing story.

About the author

Chris Crutcher has written numerous young adult books, many of which have been challenged or banned due to its contents such as focusing on abusive parents.  Crutcher’s books have been strongly influenced by his experiences as a child and family therapist as well as his role as a child protection advocate.

He has won numerous awards and has had several of his books chosen by ALA as Best Books for Young Adults.



Curriculum Ties


Book talking idea

Read the face off scene between Dale Thorton and Sarah Byrnes to demonstrate Sarah’s toughness.

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

Domestic violence, cursing, abortion, suicide.

I would have the library’s collection management policy on hand and explain that the library is not here to filter what patrons read.  If questioned about this policy I would direct the patron to the ALA Bill of Rights.  I would also have links of hand of the reviews by well known outlets such as ALA and refer to awards won.

Why did I include this book?

Chris Crutcher has been so highly suggested as a must read in young adult literature.


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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

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