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In The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, Virginia Shreves has three life dreams: to be thin, to win her parents' approval, and to date the New York Yankees. While she's interested in the whole team, she'd settle for just getting to second base with Froggy Welsh the Fourth on a Monday after school.
There's only one problem: she's fat.
Now being overweight doesn't have to be an obstacle at all, and Froggy's actually all about getting up Virginia's shirt (the verdict's still out on the Yankees), but Virginia's surrounded by skinny popular girls at school, and things aren't any better at home. Not only is the rest of her family thin and beautiful, her mother is constantly monitoring her food consumption and her dad has a knack for making terrible off-handed body comments. So in Virginia's world, being fat definitely constitutes a problem.
Until a fateful phone call, that is, which knocks her brother off his pedestal, unravels everything Virginia's ever understood about her family and her self, and sets her up to head down the totally righteous path to unapologetic self-discovery.
Carolyn Mackler's 2003 young-adult novel might be more than a decade old, but it's still totally relevant. Not only does it deal with the subject of date rape—which, unfortunately, is still a thing—it examines how we change when we discover our heroes are imperfect.
Mackler's ability to tackle tough subjects with sensitivity and humor made The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things a Printz Honor Book, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and a Pennsylvania School Librarians Association YA Top 40 title. To round off the honors, it's also number thirty-four on the American Library Association's Top 100 Banned Books list of 2000 to 2009.
We highly recommend you don't ban it from your own reading list, though. Sure, there may be a fair amount of sex and a bit of cursing, but stories about teenage girls learning to stand up for themselves are the kind of stories that change lives. Heck, you might even say these stories are important.
What adults say about high school being the best years of your life is generally a big lie born of grownup senility. However, there's one way that old cliché is true: there will never be another time in your life—well, okay, maybe college—when you'll be as free to try on new identities as you are right now. And trying on identities is actually really fun.
Case in point: handwriting. How much has yours changed from elementary school to now? Junior high to now? Last year to now? If you're one of those people with totally stable penmanship, we congratulate you on your consistency, but if you're more like us and you used to dot your i's with hearts but now not so much, then you know what we're talking about.
Handwriting is just one of the many thing we can play around with to express who we are, though. Think about the smart girl who starts acting dumb around boys to get dates. Think about the kids who go from liking pop to goth—one day they're all Justin Bieber ZOMG, the next day they're the undead. Just mention the Biebs once they start wearing all black and you'll get the Stare of Death.
Our point is this: if you, like approximately every other teenager in the known universe, feel uncool and want to be cooler, you've got a kindred spirit in Virginia. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things will confirm your suspicion that the truly uncool people are the ones who never change.
Official Author Site
Want to learn about all Carolyn Mackler's books? Start here.
Goodreads Reader Reviews
What do other teens think of Virginia? Find out here, and add your own opinion.
Date Rape Resource
If you or somebody you know has been date raped—or if you'd just like to better understand date rape—this is a great place to start, and it has links to places you can contact for help if you need it.
Virginia flew from New York to Seattle alone, but Mackler took the same trip in a Toyota.
Bookslut Interview with Carolyn Mackler
As opposed to, say, the Bookvirgin interview.
In which the "power YA triumvirate" of David Levithan, Carolyn Mackler, and Jay Asher sit down for a chat.
A Librarian's Take
Teen librarian Dianna Leighton, of the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library in Maine, reviews the novel.
A Seriously Righteous Babe
Ani DiFranco started her own record label, Righteous Babe, when she was only eighteen, and has since recorded more than twenty solo albums. Check out a few of her songs—we especially love the funky studio version of "Both Hands."
The Earth, My Butt, and an Audiobook
Here's the Audible version, narrated by Johanna Parker.
NPR's Talk of the Nation Talks About "Dear Bully"
Mackler was a bullied teenager and wrote about it for an anthology. Here she discusses the shame and lack of self-esteem bullying can cause.
Could She Be Cuter?
Here's our lovely author.
We Kind of Love His T-Shirt
Mackler and Jay Asher sign copies of their collaborative novel The Future of Us.