Alex Baugh's Reviews > All of Me

All of Me by Chris Baron
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Seventh-grader Ari Rosensweig is the new kid in school and not very happy about it. His family has just moved from New York to San Francisco, where his parents are in the business of promoting his mother's artwork. Now, he has to face new kids who will just see him as a fat boy and not who he really is - a kid who likes to ride his bike, play video games, make up role-playing games and has an interest in cryptozoology.

Over the course of seventh grade, Ari is brought to a rabbi for bar mitzvah preparation a year late, bullied by some of the boys in school because of his weight, makes a first friend named John, nicknamed Pick, a gamer who is also into robots, and a second friend named Lisa, the troubled rebel girl who sometimes misses school, and takes art lesson with Ari's mom. By the end of seventh grade, he is also dealing with an increasingly absent father he discovers is cheating on his mother.

At Stinson Beach for the summer, Ari becomes more and more aware of his weight and the anger Pick feels because of an earlier violent encounter on a bike path between Ari and his bullies that he witnessed. One sleepless night, after a fight with Pick about the encounter, Ari's pain comes to a head resulting in a self-inflicted wound that propels him into finally dealing with his weight.

Meantime, Lisa comes to stay with them at Stinson Beach while her mother is away dealing with her own problems. Over the course of the summer, Ari begins to sense an awakening in himself as his feelings for Lisa start to surface, discovers why Pick is so angry about the incident on the bike path, and begins to deal with the demise of his parent's marriage. Before the diet, Ari had always been defined only by his weight, but as he loses it, as his body physically changes, he realizes more and more that losing weight isn't a cure-all, that there is so much more to who he is than just body image, but that his weight will always be a work in progress.

If All of Me rings true to readers, perhaps it is because it is based on the author's own experiences as a overweight child. Perhaps that is why Ari's pain is so palpable, but so are his good moments. And he is strong character even if he does begin his story asking "Who am I?" Who he is is already there, it remains for him to discover it and redefine himself to himself. Most admirable, is that he knows he does not want to physically fight his bullies, as his father and Pick would have him do. He has enough self-awareness to think "There has to be a different way/to stand up for myself,/to take responsibility,/to be a man."

All of Me chronicles Ari's journey in a series of free verse poems. They are poignant, honest, raw, and realistic. Importantly, Baron allows Ari moments when he caves to desire while on his diet, but he never gives up and he doesn't beat himself up for slip-ups. I think that sticking to his weight-loss plan instead of just chucking it and comforting himself with food shows a real strength in Ari. I think that is an important message to kids who are struggling with issues around self-acceptance.

Ari's is an important multi-layered story, one that is needed, and one that you won't want to miss.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 19, 2019 – Finished Reading
September 10, 2019 – Shelved
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: middle-grade
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: weight
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: realistic-fiction
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: friends
September 10, 2019 – Shelved as: family-conflcits

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