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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  13,324 ratings  ·  1,246 reviews
Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune have been friends for years. When they were children, his weight and her scars made them both outcasts. Now Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric has ever known—sits silent in a hospital. Eric must uncover the terrible secret she’s hiding before its dark current pulls them both under. Will appeal to fans of Marieke Nijkamp, Andrew S ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 18th 2003 by Greenwillow Books (first published March 1993)
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James Mehl It boils down to courage. Courage to find help for your friends even though they might hate you forever for it, the courage to protect your students e…moreIt boils down to courage. Courage to find help for your friends even though they might hate you forever for it, the courage to protect your students even though doing so might get you fired, the courage to stand up against abuse even though it will put you in the direct line of harm.(less)

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Average rating 3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  13,324 ratings  ·  1,246 reviews

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Nov 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
UPDATE (to previous 2010 review--see below)

You know a book is a great book when it packs even more of an emotional punch the second time you read it.

The first time I read this book was for a YA Lit class I took during college. I remember really liking it, so it kind of amazes me that this time I loved it.

It still blows my mind that Chris Crutcher is not a more well-known YA author. He approaches these really tough real life issues that teenagers find themselves facing for the first time...and
laurel [suspected bibliophile]
Trigger Warning: fatphobia, binge eating, child abuse, suicide

Eric is fat. Well, he's not as fat as he used to be and he's not as fat as he'd like to be—not with his best friend, Sarah Byrnes, in the hospital and not talking to anyone. As school and swimming and local bigots take up more of his time, Eric is drawn to the mystery of Sarah Byrnes. Why isn't she talking? What happened? How can he help?


This book swings a fucking sledge hammer towards people of that kind of Christianity. You kno
Sep 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: youngadult
I read Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes when I was taking a young adult literature class in college. I'd just finished reading Chinese Handcuffs, also by Crutcher, and even though I'm not interested in sports at all, I really enjoyed it. Feeling in the mood for some more angst, but wary of the emphasis on sports in a lot of his books, I decided swimming would be an interesting sport to read about and picked up Staying Fat. It wasn't bad. In fact, it was very similar to other books of Crutcher's I've ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: belovedbookshelf, ya
Okay, so can you really read just the title of this book and not want to dive into the rest of it? I couldn't. This was one of our monthly Young Adult Reading Group (YARG) Readerville selections back in the day. It was also my first Chris Crutcher book and, really, what a way to start. I had no idea what his writing style would be like, how his characters would affect me, and I was floored by how deeply involved I became in their story. I can't remember exactly who suggested it, but I am so very ...more
Abida's Book Adventures
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I held off writing a review for this review so long, but you know what they say: better late than never. This truly is a magnificent book. I would definitely recommend this to anyone. I laughed, cried a lot in this book.

Eric Calhoune (Moby) is the fat kid in his school and his best friend is Sarah Byrnes is the weird girl with burn scars. When Moby joins the swim team in his senior year, he starts to lose the unwanted weight and finally is starting to fit in. However, while Mob
Aug 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This novel is a heart-wrenching, very real novel of two best friends that stayed close for so long due to their alienated qualities. Makes me think twice about how I treat people in all settings. Chris Crutcher is definitely worth while.
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
I believe I read this book while in high school, but picked it up at Borders again.

This Crutcher story focuses on Eric Calhoun, a high school student who was formerly "the fat kid," and his friend Sarah Byrnes. Sarah is a special person - Eric knows this immediately. To everyone else, though, she's the girl with the scars on her face - allegedly from pulling a pot of boiling water on herself at a young age.

When Eric joins the swim team and begins to slim down, he attempts to eat twice as much, j
This is a book by Chris Crutcher, so of course, it deals with some heavy issues like child abuse, abortion and bullying. However, it a lighter and more 'fun' novel than Whale Talk. The protagonist, Eric, is a 'fat kid' who befriends a scarred girl at his school - Sarah Byrnes. Her hands and face are severely burned. They bond because they are both outcasts. However, Eric takes up swimming and slims down. After being friends for a long time, Sarah ends up in the Psychiatric Unit at the hospital - ...more
Morgan F
This book was just plain annoying. Chris Crutcher's agenda was so obvious and obnoxious, it made me mad. Only half the book was spent on the plot, the other half was spent bashing someone for their beliefs and making this one stereotypical character look like a real jerk. The plot and catchy title looked intriguing, but it was hidden too deep underneath the annoying characters. This wasn't the first time this happened with a Chris Crutcher novel. In his other book I read called The Sledding Hill ...more
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-reads
I think I could write a one-word review of this book (obviously I've exceeded that already, but I'm making a point here). The problem is that if I drop this one word on you, you'll be like, "What?!" It's a racy word, and I think it might be okay to use it because it's not like I go throwing the sauce around on this blog all the time--I prefer to save this kind of talk for when I hang out with my sailor friends. Anyway, here's my one-word review:

FAN-_ _ _ _ _ _ _-TASTIC. Seriously. I know a lot o
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: troubled teenagers
I heard Mr. Crutcher speak once I believe at ALA. He writes YA sports fiction but he was a family therapist and child protection specialist before he became a writer, and far too much of the horrible stuff in his books are things he heard from teens. He is fierce about the need to give young people tools to help them better their lives.

I've been going through my books hoping to find books I could discard. Not this one. I remembered the general outlines and it still had me on the edge of my seat
Aug 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish this could have been a required book in one of my classes. Then I would have had the pleasure of ripping it apart in front of an audience.
Alex Shippey
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shannon Upton
Aug 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
A Report for the Parents of Kids Who Might Have to Read This for School

I only read “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes” because it’s on the optional reading list for my 14 year-old son this school year. True to form, from the first sentence, this book shouted, “You will have to write a paper about me!” The book even features a plot device wherein the characters take a high school class devoted to openly discussing hot button topics, ostensibly so that real kids can write papers about these characters
Sandra Strange
This book reinforces my objections to Chris Crutcher’s novels, since it had the same problems I saw in his earlier books. The plot concerns a fat boy who takes up swimming and his friend, whose face was badly burned in an accident when she was very young. The “villains” in the book are a stereotyped unjust and sadistic vice principal and a fundamentalist Christian swimming competitor who proves to be particularly hypocritical. My objections: spates of bad language, and the “politically correct” ...more
Cassie Sonnenberg
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book is a slow starter, and at first, I thought it was going to be a pretty typical story of high school outcasts: the fat kid and the badly scarred girl who are best friends provide each other a sanctuary from the rest of the world. Midway through, though, the book gets into some pretty heady issues: suicide, abortion, religion, child abuse. The characters' experiences and the way Crutcher tells them definitely make the reader think -- especially the in=class argument about abortion and re ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, 2016
Don't let the weird cover scare you away-this was great.
I'd never read anything by this author before now, and I'm glad to see he's written several books. It was surprising to find out this one was written in 2003. It doesn't feel dated at all except for the absence of cell phones. And maybe the curiously derogatory word "adjusto"-I don't remember that ever being a thing. Otherwise, the kids could be from a book written this year.
I always like a YA book where the adults are more than just prop
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
NOTE: I took this down from 4 stars to 3 stars. I was going for 3.5, but originally I rounded up and not down. After class, I changed my mind though (something I don't usually do). Round down is appropriate, I feel though. Here is why:

The most distracting, and constantly disorienting part of this book was not the content, but the flashback formatt of the book. Maybe I am just directionally challenged (not just with physical locations, but also book directions) but I had a hard time getting into
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don’t often read YA lit. It’s not because I revile the genre, but rather there is so much of it and I lack any sort of guide through the maze. That said, Staying Fat was on my school’s Contemporary Lit syllabus when I was in high school. I never took the class, so I never read the book, but I’d heard good life affirming things about it from some of the derelicts that did take the class, and that stuck with me.
As a teacher, I try to read some YA lit each summer, if only as a way to stay releva
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Well that was a heartbreaking story. I liked the whole concept and the writing was great, but certain things pulled me out and kept me from being too invested: the narrator has a very snappy, witty sense of humor and thinks and speaks in a unique way. That's great, but ALL the characters talked like that, which did not feel realistic at all. It was clearly just the author's writing style and I wished he had created different voices for the other characters. Also, some of the characters just seem ...more
L.P. Logan
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked this up from my library's banned book pile. I can see why it was banned but oh how I wish I'd read this in high school. It would have made me so much more comfortable in my skin and helped me see that I didn't have to drive myself crazy striving to be perfect.

Is this story perfect?

No, it's far from it.

For the most part it is jerky, boring, and hard to follow. But then there are these gems that really put it all in perspective and you realize -- wait a minute, that's just like real life
Hannah Rae
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Eric Calhoune is an overweight whale of a swimmer... so of course everyone knows him as "Moby."

Sarah Byrnes is outspoken, angry, and awesome, with burns on her face and her hands... so of course she insists that everyone call her by both her first and last name. Never just Sarah; always Sarah Byrnes. It's a pretty cruel coincidence that her surname is Byrnes, yes, but Sarah Byrnes embraces it as much as a person can be expected to.

It's a strange friendship, the one that exists between Moby and S
Cameron Miller
Nov 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I greatly enjoyed this book. While I wouldn't say it is "the best book I've ever read", it is enjoyable.

I'll start with the things I don't like. First off, the characters, while dynamic, are very predictable. I liked them, and the way they changed or showed who they really are through their actions. However, they can be very cliche and predictable at times. Also, this book pisses me off at some points. This might be simply because I'm a highly opinionated liberal, but I suppose it would be the s
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, 2011
If anyone is looking for a new hero I think it should be Sarah Byrnes. She has had a tough life and does something drastic to avoid more horror! I loved how Eric stood by her and did what he could to help her, even when things started to get dicey. I also loved that when Eric realized he was in over his head he went to a respected adult for help and she was able to do what was right and help Sarah instead of following the rules.

The other drama in the book was interesting. At times it seemed over
This book covered a lot of ground.
- suicide
- abuse
- friendship
- abortion
- bullying
- family
- religion/beliefs

Almost all of the above issues were handled realistically and in a way that teens could relate to. Even though there were so many issues woven into the story, it never felt preachy or hokey.

The story itself is about Eric aka Moby and Sarah Byrnes. We get to see how their friendship got to where it is, and how Sarah ended up in the psych ward not saying a word to anyone. Watching Moby fig
Julie Suzanne
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this because another ELA teacher, grade 10 at another school, requires that her students read this. It was highly recommended by her years ago, and I found a copy and remembered. I wasn't hooked right away, and there was almost enough swimming/sport focus to ruin it, but there was enough drama to keep me interested. Eventually, there was no putting this down. We have intelligent male characters with great adult role models, much like John Green usually provides. Intelligent banter, i
Saylee Padwal
Jun 26, 2013 rated it liked it
2.5 stars.
Although this book gives off a John Green Vibe, the author cramps around five social issues into one book which makes the story a bit too far-fetched.
I really only started enjoying it after I reached the mid-point. And then the author took the liberty to give it a completely abrupt ending.

Sarah Byrnes' character will have you shedding tears for her and Moby is kind of like the friend you always wished you had in school.

The characters are closer to home and easy to relate to.
Worth readi
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An exceptionally well written story, full of wit, great dialogue, and such memorable characters. Reminds us adults can be the worst bullies, but also true heroes. The author creates scenes where it really feels you're in the room with these interesting group of teens; I'll certainly look for more books by him. While the ending seemed a bit rushed and detoured a bit from the pace of the rest of the novel it is still highly recommended.
Sarah Guillory
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Single-sitting read. No higher praise than that.
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Chris Crutcher's writing is controversial, and has been frequently challenged and even banned by individuals who want to censor his books by removing them from libraries and classrooms. Running Loose and Athletic Shorts were on the ALA's top 100 list of most frequently challenged books for 1990-2000. His books generally feature teens coping with serious problems, including abusive parents, racial ...more

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112 likes · 112 comments
“From a distance,' he says, 'my car looks just like every other car on the freeway, and Sarah Byrnes looks just like the rest of us. And if she's going to get help, she'll get it from herself or she'll get it from us. Let me tell you why I brought this up. Because the other day when I saw how hard it was for Mobe to go to the hospital to see her, I was embarrassed that I didn't know her better, that I ever laughed at one joke about her. I was embarrassed that I let some kid go to school with me for twelve years and turned my back on pain that must be unbearable. I was embarrassed that I haven't found a way to include her somehow the way Mobe has.'

Jesus. I feel tears welling up, and I see them running down Ellerby's cheeks. Lemry better get a handle on this class before it turns into some kind of therapy group.

So,' Lemry says quietly, 'your subject will be the juxtaposition of man and God in the universe?'

Ellerby shakes his head. 'My subject will be shame.”
“It's a scary thing; moving on. Part of me wishes life were more predictable and part of me is excited that it's not. I think it's impossible to tell the good things from the bad things while they're happening.” 33 likes
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