Matt Wallace, author of Bump, presents a personal, humorous, and body-positive middle grade standalone about a fat kid who wants to stop his bullies . . . and enlists the help of the world's most infamous supervillain. Perfect for fans of Holly Goldberg Sloan, Julie Murphy, and John David Anderson!
Max's first year of middle school hasn't been easy. Eighth-grade hotshot Johnny Pro torments Max constantly, for no other reason than Max is fat and an easy target. Max wishes he could fight back, but he doesn't want to hurt Johnny . . . just make him feel the way Max feels.
In desperation, Max writes to the only person he thinks will understand: imprisoned supervillain Master Plan, a "gentleman of size." To his surprise, Master Plan wants to help! He suggests a way for Max to get even with Johnny Pro, and change how the other kids at school see them both.
And it works! When Master Plan's help pays off for Max in ways he couldn't have imagined, he starts gaining confidence--enough to finally talk to Marina, the girl he likes in class who shares his passion for baking. With Master Plan in his corner, anything seems possible . . . but is there a price to pay for the supervillain's help?
This was definitely not what I was expecting in terms of a traditional middle grade novel. It tackles tough topics like body shaming, social isolation, self-esteem, bullying, identity, parental absence, and more. I think that most readers will find this book rewarding because it provides all of these themes through the perspective of a middle school boy which can be difficult to find in most middle grade books. 3.5 stars
The Supervillain's Guide to Being a Fat Kid is exactly what the title indicates. Readers follow Max as he enters the sixth grade. Max has always considered himself fat and finds that he struggles with fitting in and is more prone to bullying because of his size. While he hopes that things will be different in 6th grade, Max quickly learns that he will still be ostracized and bullied. Hoping to change the course of his school life, Max begins to write to a supervillain about how to handle bullies and possibly change his appearance to feel more confident about himself. What ensues is an extremely interesting correspondence.
There is a certain level of honesty and transparency regarding fat representation that I liked about this novel. Both Max and his supervillain correspondent are fat and do not shy away from acknowledging that people do not view them the same way because of their size. Max is bullied on page and while it was hard to read and in some ways unrealistic (there is very little teacher intervention), it is something that I think middle grade readers will appreciate. Even as an adult, I remember middle school being more difficult than both elementary and high school. There are a lot of changes that go on for this age group and Wallace does an excellent job representing this on page. By providing so much insight to Max's inner thoughts, readers become more empathetic to Max's wish to not fit in, but to be able to go to school in a comfortable environment where he's not fearful of walking down the hallway. As an adult reader, I found some of the correspondence between Max and the villain to flawed; however, younger readers will grow with Max and recognize the idea/concept that not all advice is good advice even when it's coming from someone in a similar circumstance. This growth is clear in every chapter as Max reaches new highs in his confidence only to realize that it's easy to hurt others around you when you're solely focused on yourself.
If there is one thing that I wish this novel did better, it would be the world development. Max lives in a society where the existence of superheroes and supervillains is normal. However, readers don't get much back story on how the world is developed and why this is normal. I did appreciate the conversation that Max has about superheroes not being held accountable for the damage that they do to communities, but it left me wanting more. There was also a food/cooking element that was incorporated into the book; however, I feel like Wallace could have taken just a tad bit more time to flesh this out in the end of the book. There is a competition that readers don't get a conclusion to and because it's such a huge part of Max's character, I feel like it could have been explored in greater detail. Overall, this was a good read and I'm looking forward to reading more by Wallace in the future.
The cover of this novel, and the fact that it includes superheroes and villains makes you expect a graphic novel, but instead is normal prose. Immediately upon reading, the voice of both Max and Maximo/Master Plan are captivating. I was intrigued about how Max was going to turn his life around, and how his relationship with Master Plan was going to develop.
Anyone who has experienced any bullying, body shaming or social isolation will resonate with what Max is feeling at the start of this novel. The way he describes not feeling 'eligible' is heartbreaking. I loved some of the early advice from Master Plan:
"No one owes you their time or their attention, Maxwell. You deserve to be treated with respect. You do not deserve to be bullied or insulted. You do, however, have to earn the respect and affection of others, and it is up to them to give it or not give it to you."
I also liked the way this book suggests that maybe superheroes aren't always the good guys. This is a theme that has been explored in a few different vehicle over the past few years, but is still interesting. I would have liked to see this developed further, with more of Master Plan's own story.
A well as Max's problems with bullies & self-confidence, the story also touches on middle-school friendships, crushes and having a single parent. Max describes what that is like for him:
“It can be tough, though,” Max said. “With just one of them, trying to do everything. They’re only one person, right? That’s how I feel a lot of the time, anyway. Like I don’t have as much of that . . . whatever . . . backup, I guess? As other kids?”
I think that issue of "backup" will resonate with a lot of readers.
This was a really enjoyable story that didn't overstay its welcome, but was just long enough to wrap things up nicely. Personally, I think the last scene with Johnny Pro wasn't necessary, but everything else felt right.
This middle grade novel is very original and creative, and it addresses some tough issues in an insightful, engaging, and humorous way. Even though I thought the beginning had a slightly rough start, with too much summary and not enough action, the story is very well-paced once it gets going, and it includes some surprising twists at the end.
I got this book to read aloud with my kid who is being bullied for her size. I though the book was just Ok, but I think a lot of it really resonated with my child. If nothing else, it was nice to have a larger kid who didn’t lose weight to become “cool”. Instead, our helpful supervillain helped Max realize that he already was awesome as is; he just needed to believe in himself. While Max did get a whole new wardrobe, I think that was ok because it was part of standing up for himself- he had previously let his mom just buy his clothes (the same stupid red pants that he’d had since he was a baby…I can relate lol).
And there were some pretty good character insights -helping Max understand why Johnny Pro became a bully, talking about why Luca might not be so excited about Max’s new look, Max understanding that he probably didn’t actually *like* like Marina- he was just excited that a girl actually paid attention to him. My favorite was when the supervillain said “I will always choose my own interests and desires over other people. It doesn’t matter how much I like them…I will always come first….Perhaps that, more than anything else…is what makes me a villain.”
"He asked his mom who had knocked down all the buildings. She told him Cobalt had done it to stop a bad guy. Max asked why he had to knock down all the buildings to stop the bad guy. She told him that's what superheroes did. Max asked his mom if Cobalt was going to put the buildings back up. His mom was quiet for a minute, and then she said she didn't think so, no. Max asked his mom why not. She said she didn't know. Max asked his mom if anyone was hurt when Cobalt knocked the buildings down because she said he had to knock them down. His mom told him they would get McDonald's cheeseburgers if he stopped asking her these questions." (p. 18)
"Max didn't understand how you could expect to teach anyone if you weren't willing to learn yourself." (p. 19)
"He couldn't explain, even to himself, why the thought of kids making of his body was worse than kids making fun of him for running through the halls, but to Max it was." (p. 23)
"It also seemed to Max like villain's didn't just wear costumes and have nicknames. There were plenty of adults his mom talked about who sure seemed like villains that superheroes never seemed to do anything about. What good were they, then?" (p. 28)
"It is just like you write in your book, there is nothing wrong with the word 'fat' and we should take it back from people who use it as an insult." (p. 31)
"I read a lot about petrochemical plants and all the terrible things they do to the environment after I read your book, and like you say in it, between you and Cobalt, you were the only one doing something to protect the people who live by that plant. It's like you wrote. 'Be assured that Cobalt, the garishly costumed oaf, will not visit a single resident when the variety of illnesses caused by living beside that monstrous cancer-belching factory puts them all in hospital beds.'" (p. 32)
"My school says they have a 'zero-tolerance policy' for bullying, but it seems like what they think is bullying is a lot different from what I think it is. Whenever I have said anything to them, they just tell me I have to stop being so sensitive." (p. 33)
"Their school wouldn't serve Luca in the cafeteria anymore. They said he owed them too much money for breakfast and lunches he hadn't paid for. Neither of the boys understood how a kid who didn't have a job or any money to begin with could owe money to someone, let alone a school that was supposed to be free." (p. 38)
"The means of inflicting violence on a large scale is too easily available to people your age." (p. 47)
"This is very important, so please pay close attention. Do not blame others. Do not blame girls for not wanting to talk to you. No one owes you their time or their attention, Maxwell. You deserve to be treated with respect. You do not deserve to be bullied or insulted. You do, however, have to earn the respect and affection of others, and it is up to them to give it or not give it to you." (p. 53)
"I don't like looking in mirrors. I close my eyes a lot when I brush my teeth, or even when I brush my hair. If I'm wearing clothes or not, I always try to walk past them without seeing myself." (p. 117)
"There is nothing more highly prized in our culture than being on television." (p. 179)
"It seemed to Max whenever a superhero couldn't 'fight crime' anymore, they ended up judging reality-TV show contests." (p. 183)
"Adults rarely understand the difference between teaching a child what they need to know and controlling everything a child does. Somehow, adults only remember how much they did not know when they were children. They forget all the things they did know, and they forget how early they knew them." (p. 254)
"You have to to stop waiting for other people to give you permission to live your life." (p. 254)
What worked: Having Max seek advice from a supervillain named Master Plan, or Maximo, is a unique twist for a book about a troubled sixth grader. Max’s two main issues stem from being overweight and consequently being bullied at school. Surprisingly, Master Plan’s emails from prison show compassion for Max’s situation and provide sound suggestions to help him improve his life. Maximo says violence will only make the situation worse, and he shouldn’t expect respect from others unless it’s been earned. Max shouldn’t worry so much about others, and he should do things that make him feel better about himself. Useful advice indeed, but is there an endgame? Cooking is one thing Max enjoys, so the inclusion of a competitive baking show should have an additional appeal for some readers. The dynamics between Max and his best friend Luca add another dimension to the problem. They are both outcasts, for different reasons, and they stick together for moral support. Luca even jumps in when Max is getting beaten up. However, a question arises as Max’s confidence changes. What will happen to their friendship if Max is perceived as less nerdy? Luca isn’t getting any helpful advice from a master criminal to improve himself, so will he be left behind, alone? Their relationship should be relatable for middle-grade readers, as they go through the emotional and physical changes of puberty. The setting is in a world where supervillains and superheroes are commonplace. Most people are huge fans of the heroes, but Max views them in a totally different manner. He thinks they’re all self-centered jerks. Heroes swoop in to capture criminals without regard for the destruction of public property, and Max asks his mom about the aftermath. Do the heroes clean up the damage, and do they pay for the repairs? Is anyone hurt or killed when the heroes destroy buildings or smash cars and busses? Max doesn’t think criminals are innocent, but the public ignores the harm done by superheroes in the name of upholding the law. Who does more harm to public safety? It’s an interesting perspective about crime fighters. What didn’t work as well: Ok, a supervillain compassionately becoming the voice of reason and good judgment for a troubled sixth grader is hard to accept. His comments encourage Max to see the good in himself, and others will respond more positively as he becomes more confident. The first inkling that things may not be all that they seem is when Max enrolls in self-defense classes with Master Plan’s former “villainy aid” (not his henchman). Master Plan seems able to control people and situations even though he’s in prison. The question in the back of Max’s mind remains, “Why is a supervillain willing to help me?” The Final Verdict: Advice can be dangerous. This book is delightfully entertaining as Max learns to improve his self-image. Revenge against the bully will only make things worse, so Master Plan offers a method to change the perceptions of Max’s peers. Some parts of the bully story are stereotypical, but the author includes his own nuances to the book. The book should be enjoyable for all middle-grade readers, and I recommend you give it a shot.
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid by Matt Wallace is a must read for all. Wallace draws you in with a prologue which leaves many questions unanswered. This prologue gives you a taste of the climax in the prime of the book. A very immersive detail is that Wallace includes emails written between characters. I think that this work is a masterpiece.
Max is an overweight kid going into the sixth grade. He was always different from most “normal kids.” The reasoning behind this is that Max always disliked the superheroes and leaned towards the supervillains, with his particular favorite being Masterplan, who, like him, is overweight. After getting bullied at school by an eighth grader Max reflects, he realizes that he is unhappy with his life. Max writes a letter to his favorite supervillain Masterplan, who responds with an email. I feel that the inclusion of the emails really helps the reader understand the character relationship between Max and Masterplan, being able to see these interactions allows you to see how Masterplan helps change Max for the better and show him to be himself. Max bonds with a girl he likes named Marina over their shared love of cooking. All the while Masterplan is teaching Max to do what makes him happy and what makes him feel cool instead of catering to others. At Marina’s birthday party Max is confronted by his bullies. He uses the teachings of Masterplan to toss them through the table creating enough distraction for Marina’s criminal dad to escape. After the party Max learns that he was just a pawn in Masterplan’s masterplan. Despite this, Max doesn’t forget the lessons he learned and the bond he created with Masterplan. Overall, I think this is an amazing read with a good message of always being yourself and you just can’t put it down. I give it my highest recommendation.
I usually give things high reviews on Goodreads. I’m nice! But it makes it hard to determine what books I really loved. This is a book I really loved.
Max is the fat kid, and that means he gets bullied. Especially when he’s the fat kid that loves baking. Looking for advice on how to deal with the bullies that torment him, he emails jailed supervillain Master Plan, who, to his surprise, responds. With Master Plan in his corner, everything about Max’s life changes. But is there a price to pay for playing with supervillains?
This book has an engaging style, alternating between emails and regular prose, which I think readers will love. I adore the world! The casual superhero setting is something I would love to see more of. I also got really into Max’s baking competition, which is like a middle grade version of Chopped! My favorite part of the book, though, had to be the relationship between Max and Master Plan (though I also loved Max and Marina). Somewhat fatherly, always cordial, that relationship made the novel.
I seriously love this book. It’s funny, heartfelt, surprising, and even heartbreaking at times. Highly recommended.
#ThisBookTheseReasons Max is a fat Gr 6 kid. Predictably, our fat shaming society means he’s had a lifetime of bullying and low self-esteem. Often those who become superheroes in his world are similar to the physical prowess types who torment him. Max admires a supervillian, Master Plan, who is also fat, who seems to do more good works than many city-trashing supes. Max corresponds with MP in prison and takes life coaching that allows him to build confidence in his skills, find his personal style, confront bullies…but is it *all* for the better…? Revenge is so tempting. Is the “villain” selflessly helping Max?
An important #BodyPositivity & #FatActivism book. A good look at what is heroic versus self-aggrandizement; a re-examination of superhero/hero worship. Also, finding yourself without losing yourself. Plus, Max is a talented baker, so the food talk is delicious. A great read.
Could say more positive things re: Matt Wallace’s The Supervillian’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid (really liked the “getting the girl” treatment), but I’ll leave you with the jacket flap blurb and back cover positive hype quotes.
I received an ARC copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway. My review is honest and impartial though.
This is the most middle-grade book I have ever read. That's not a bad thing, mind you. Just letting you know, if you read middle grades as an adult, this is one where you have to take into account the target audience. Having said that, I really enjoyed this! The book speaks to my nerdy soul and to the kid I was in junior high. I did think that the villain perspective was well done and that the author was able to deftly maneuver around the whole "is the bad guy a hero?" conundrum. I do think that as an adult (and maybe some savvy kids too), I often felt that the "lesson teaching" felt a bit on the nose, but I feel like the audience is a kid who needs to hear the things this book has to say outright, and so I am not too bothered. The book is well-paced, the writing is snappy, and the character voices are very distinct and consistent (all things I find lacking sometimes in some juvenile fiction) This is definitely a recommendation for shy, bullied kids everywhere.
Issues of bullying, self-acceptance, fat issues. I thought the commentary on superheroes not paying the price for all the destruction their violent "crime fighting" causes was spot on. The advice supervillain MasterPlan offers Max to help with the bullying and self-esteem issues is actually very good (for instance, the people with the most power in bullying situations are the bystanders). But I also liked that Max decides in the end that he was being used by MasterPlan for nefarious purposes, and decides to stand up for himself to MasterPlan, too.
"Their school wouldn't serve Luca in the cafeteria anymore. They said he owed them too much money for breakfast and lunches he hadn't paid for. Neither of the boys understood how a kid who didn't have a job or any money to begin with could owe money to someone, let alone a school that was supposed to be free."
This book really went straight to my heart. I wish there had been a book like it when I was growing up, but I'm so happy it exists now. I felt so hard for Max, and Luca. Some of the advice was really good, and I love the flipped superhero vs villian trope.
For ages 8-12, this book has such a likeable narrator, you are really rooting for him. The book focuses on bullying, body-image, and feeling better about yourself, and the story is enough to make you want to keep reading. Letters of advice from the supervillain (everything is like real life in this book except that there are superheroes and villains) are a great device to get the message to the readers. There was lots to like about this book. Happy ending, obv. : ) I liked the author's acknowledgements, too.
A very body-affirming book. Max receives great advice from the Supervillain. I enjoyed the cooking competition aspect of the story and I’m glad Max had 2 good friends. The premise of the story is that there are Superheroes and thus villains in the world. You have to accept it as fact to understand the book. I wished for more background on that. I’m also disappointed that at the end of the book, the bad guys have many victories.
Funny and unique, this one is set in an almost Watchmen-like world where questionable superheroes battle supervillains who kind of have a point. Max's correspondence with Master Plan about how to gain confidence and triumph over bullies as a fat kid manages to include some real gems without ever feeling didactic. But can a supervillain really be trusted? The ending is satisfyingly imperfect. Highly recommend!
Max, a self-described “fat kid,” is having a hard time in middle school as the target of bullies. He writes a letter to imprisoned supervillain Master Plan, a self-described “gentleman of size,” seeking advice. While Master Plan does help Max with suggestions about his wardrobe and taking advantage of opportunities, Max ends up learning so much more by becoming a better friend and learning that empathy is so much better than revenge.
I really enjoyed this story and loved the main character. I can’t wait to get it into the hands of young readers when school starts back up. It’s the story of a struggling 6th grader who doesn’t fit in and is made fun of. Some parts were hard to read because i know this kind of bullying goes on all the time. But as Max realizes he’s got talents and cool abilities, he begins to have confidence with who he is.
My grandson really enjoyed reading this book! He is in middle school, and the characters and situations were easily relatable. It also managed to get “the message” across in a gentle, but easy to understand way. Thank you for the opportunity of winning these great books! I have really enjoyed the ones you have sent!!
This book was not quite what I expected, but I ended up adoring the journey of Max to accept himself and be true to who he is. I love that Max didn’t CHANGE who he was at all, but became who he was. The mixture of narration and letters, of supervillain talk and contemporary middle school life also worked well. Fast pacing, and wonderful to see more fat protagonists in children’s lit!
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid is a refreshing, action-packed middle grade novel about body positivity, friendships, and bullying. Set in a world with superheroes and supervillains, this one rides the line between realism and fantasy well. It also features several other themes such as friendship changes, first crushes, and a touch of mystery. The audiobook is pretty good — overall, a strong story with a powerful message.