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Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  86 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published July 1st 2014 by Koehler Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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JM Randolph
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jenny Ruden’s debut novel Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet in a word, rocks. In three words, it rocks out loud. More words?

The story centers on 16-year old Bethany, an overweight girl with a perfect sister, an absent father who seemingly has forgotten about her, and an unrequited passion for the boy across the street: her best friend and talented magician, TJ.

The summer that The Forgiveness Diet is sweeping the nation, Bethany’s mother enrolls her at Camp Utopia, a high-profile fat camp clea
Bèbè ✦ RANT  ✦
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-copies
First things first - Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet does have fat jokes in it. Yes, it is about fat camp. About a very insecure, overweight girl who focuses way too much on her weight and avoids the problems that are going on in her life. Throw in a trip that she didn't want to fat camp, her neighbor that she had crush on doesn't want her, and a dad who left years ago and never contacts her? Oh yeah, let's not forget her mother who always talks to her about losing weight and eating less.

The Reading Countess
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
What would you do if you were sixteen, overweight and insecure, and thrown into a fat camp on the other side of the country alone? If you're Bethany, then you would turn the camp upside down.

Camp Utopia: & The Forgiveness Diet is funny-but don't let the humor fool you. The supposed frivolity is there to reel the young reader in. And then Jenny Ruden hooks them with some solid life lessons. Ruden has written a book about self-acceptance, the importance of being true to yourself, and being re
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 every ...more
Cait S
Mar 06, 2015 rated it liked it
This book started at a five star rating. The writing is unique and genuinely funny. I enjoyed the style, with the little emails spaced here and there, the pieces of the backstory sprinkled through out. Then slowly it started dropping...and where now it's probably a 2.5 stars.

My main complaint is that it is just so unbearably long, which is not something one would usually say about a 300 page book. But it drags on and on and on from about page 160 on until I felt like I had been sit
Jul 31, 2014 rated it liked it
Bethany Stern is going to fat camp aka Camp Utopia. However she would rather be anywhere else than fat camp. Like with her sexy neighbor and magician, TJ. While watching television TJ and Bethany see a commercial for the Forgiveness Diet. How forgiving people will make you lose weight is the million dollar question but Bethany decides to give it a shot anyways.

There was quite the cast of characters in this book. Most of them were fine and I would hang out with them but others I was not feeling
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Firstly: yes, this is a story of a fat girl going to fat camp. However, this story reads nothing like a hunky-dory "finding herself through weight loss" MTV story that got canceled after two seasons.

Bethany is funny, witty, well-read, and fat. She isn't a super-powered bad ass that learns to love her lady lumps and ultimately laughs in the face of society. She's insecure, boy-crazy, and still loves food. So many YA novels dealing with weight loss are too obvious. Girl hates body, ergo, girl hat
Stephanie Rivera
Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is funny, sure. It's has heartwarming moments, yup. Will Bethany upset you sure? However, this book is a reality. As someone who is 'fat' in the eyes of many I felt, at moments, that Bethany's voice was mine. She loves food, but who doesn't? It's about having a healthy relationship with food and yourself. That's what this book teaches you. Love yourself, care for yourself and be who you are fearlessly. AND ultimately, Forgive.

The writing style was relatable and easy to follow. The cont
Ellen Christian
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While Camp Utopia and The Forgiveness Diet is technically a Young Adult book, I highly recommend it for anyone that has always struggled with not being one of the perfect people. Whether your struggle was with your weight, your appearance or just being a little bit different, it’s definitely a book you need to read. I literally could not put it down and identified with Bethany and her struggles even though weight wasn’t an issue for me. Highly recommended.
Jackie Trimble
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won this from GoodReads (thank you for the note - Jenny!) and I wanted my daughter (who hates to read - gasp! I know!) to read it because she is 16. So, instead, I read it. Initially, I was a little turned off by Bee. But, about 1/2 way through the book, something happened and before you knew it, I was done with the book. Literally, it was like the second 1/2 of the book just melted away!

I really enjoyed it and I do agree that it has some good messages for teen and adults alike!
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you have ever been "fat" and had your family try to "help", a.k.a. blame, you, then this book is going to open up those wounds again. But it is not a sad book, it is joyful, at times slapstick and silly. This is about being true to yourself, being the best version of you, whatever that maybe.

Sadly, the references to sex and drugs make this too mature for my grade 8 room, but this is a lovely book.
Jadetyger Sevea
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Check out my review of Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet at the Weekly Alibi website:

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet
Sasha Ellis
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great debut novel! I love the main character, will she survive fat camp? you have to read it to find out. I recommend for a great summer beach read. Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down! Well done Jenny.
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Light read which kept me laughing at times long after I put the book down.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
“Beauty settles in the flaws.”

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through the Goodreads First Reads program.)

Fifteen-year-old Bethany Stern’s life is a mess. She’s not-so-secretly in love with her next-door neighbor and best friend, Toby Jacobson (TJ for short), who doesn’t feel the same. An aspiring magician two years her senior, TJ is on the cusp of graduation – after which time he’ll gladly blow town (which is Baltimore, Maryland) to audition for the talent show A
Melissa Clark
Apr 03, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am Sisyphus. This book is my rock.

This book is a testament to my dedication of accomplishing goals. I simply wanted to complete this book, and never speak of it again. Truly, I thought the day would never come. Today is finally that day.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
Much like the elusive dream of the fat camp residents to somehow unzip their troubled selves and reveal a shiny, new, skinny version of themselves, I kept thinking there was an actual good book trapped somewhere within the hot mess of these pages.

Dripping with biting cynicism (which is sometimes legitimately witty and funny, and quite frequently not) and stuffed with stereotypes, the plot blinks from realistic to overdone to bizarre sitcom antics and back faster than its protagonist can down a
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
The older I get, the more likely I am to stop reading a book with little appeal. Camp Utopia by Jenny Ruden fits that description for me. Despite its compassionate portrayal of an overweight teen trying to lose weight, other aspects of the book failed to work for me. The plot has contrivances, the characters don’t act nice, and the book is overly long.

The main storyline of sixteen-year-old Bethany who is sent to Camp Utopia, otherwise known as fat camp, holds potential. Unfortunately, contrivanc
Aug 11, 2014 rated it liked it

(3.5 stars)

Received from TLC Book Tours, for free, for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Summary from 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 scand
Carrie Ardoin
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a bigger girl myself, I knew I had to read about Bethany's journey to fat camp. If I had a dollar for every time in my life I heard, "Well you'd be so pretty if you lost weight," or, "You're very beautiful for a big girl,"then I could have sent myself to fat camp. The main character, and I'm guessing by extension the author, knows exactly what it's like to be in the same position. I identified so much with Bethany sometimes, it kind of scared me.

Bee knows she needs to lose weight, OK? Like, s
I'd So Rather Be Reading {Nat}
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
I love contemporary YA, especially when the heroine is realistically flawed. And there's no heroine more flawed than Bethany Stern. Bethany is overweight and on her way to Camp Utopia, a weight-loss camp. Her mother is sending her there for eight weeks, and all Bethany can think about is how much it'll hurt to leave her would-be boyfriend, TJ. Bethany loves TJ, and although he does not reciprocate her feelings, they still spend a lot of time together and are best friends. Besides her weight, Bet ...more
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, realistic-fiction
4.5 stars
Bethany lives up to her image, the image that people see. Bethany hides behind her body for it’s her defense against the world. Bethany doesn’t have that many friends and she’s fine with that until the summer her mother sends her to California. Bethany pleaded and begged not to be shipped off to Camp Utopia for eight weeks but it was useless, she is headed off to fat camp. She’s leaving TJ behind, just when things were finally moving forward. Her sister was the one supposedly driving he
Jun 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Bethany, sixteen, wants to spend her summer watching her friend T.J. do magic tricks, eating Chinese food, and -- ideally -- making out with T.J. Fat camp does not factor into the equation. Neither does enduring a cross-country drive with her sister's truly odious boyfriend. And when Camp Utopia delivers all that Bethany fears and more, she takes it upon herself to create her own summer adventures.

Some thoughts, in no particular order: The cast is diverse and entertaining; I'm particularly fond
Lori T-m
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1st-reads
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads (thanks to the author and to Goodreads for this opportunity). This book was an easy-read and went at a good pace. The characters were "real" and I had a lot of empathy for many of them. Everyone surrounding sixteen-year-old Bethany thinks she needs to lose weight, and they don't break it to her easy either. During several sections in the book, I found myself pretty upset/bothered by the way she was treated (mostly by her sister's boyfri ...more
Anita Kelley Harris
The first book I finished reading in 2015 was a good one. It is a young adult novel, but like many YA books, it explores the grown-up concepts of self-esteem, body image, first love, family relationships, and more. It was a quick, light read with some profound moments.

The story follows 16-year-old Bethany Stern. (I thought she was really immature for a 16-year-old but I think that's to appeal to younger readers, or maybe 16-year-olds are just like that.) She lives in Baltimore and has a older, b
Susan Milby
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
I had a difficult time getting into this book. There were parts that were quite good, but also some I really didn't care for. The story has many realistic emotions and difficulties that many women (and men) deal with in regards to weight and self worth. The main character, Bethany is believable in her struggles with weight and the way she is treated by family and so-called friends. Many of the other characters were mean and spiteful and I just didn't like most of them and it made the story harde ...more
Carol Turznik
Aug 07, 2014 rated it liked it
As per the other reviews, this book was basically about a "fat camp" and situations that arose from it, but in many ways, it was much more than that. I believe that Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet was written for the middle school girl who is often caught in a web of "who am I?" Being fat, thin, weird, and feeling out of the loop with peers reflect in self worthlessness to the max. I believe this book is about finding yourself and the worth that you can bring to others……….perhaps I'm wrong, ...more
Lia Marcoux
Apr 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
I don't usually read teen contemporary, but I decided to try new things. However, I did not like this new thing. I thought it was false empowerment (a LOT of it comes from "some boys like fat girls"), sometimes in a damaging way; just listing the problems would make me tired. Also, I HATED reading her e-mails, and hated nearly as much all the praise she received for them. I wish there were more body-positive, health-at-every-size stories to point teen readers to, because much like Splenda replac ...more
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Bailey
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alright so I could totally relate to Bethany.
On the scale of hey, I can totally relate to this character, I would give Bethany an 8.
I think that it's definitely the type of book that can help someone who struggles with peer pressure(or parental pressure) and their weight start to accept what's going on and like themselves a little bit more. Definitely will read again.
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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 ...more
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