One Fat Summer


Book: One Fat Summer

Author: Robert Lipsyte 

Cover Illustrator: Darryl S. Zudeck

Publisher: HarperTeen, Reprinted 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0808515487 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0808515489 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0064470735 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0064470733 Paperback

Language level: 4

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages 12 – 17; I’d say 16 and up

Rating: ** 2 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: General youth fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Lipsyte, Robert.  One Fat Summer (Published in 1977 by Ursula Nordstrom Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY  10022; republished in 1991 by Harper Trophy).   For Robert (Bobby) Marks, fourteen and over two hundred pounds, summer does not equal fun because he can’t hide his fat body in loose clothes. While most people are happy to take off their heavy jackets and long pants, Bobby can’t even button his jeans or reach over his belly to touch his toes. Spending the summer at their summer house on Rumson Lake with his father Marty who works five days a week behind a desk in an air-conditioned office, mother Lenore who is studying to be a teacher, and older sister Michelle, is sheer torture. This particular summer promises to be worse than usual. His parents can’t stop fighting. His best friend, Joanie Miller, goes home to New York City and won’t tell him why. Dr. Kahn, a rich, stingy estate owner who hires him to manage an enormous lawn, is working him to death. And to top it off, a local bully, Willie Rumson, who lost the Kahn yard job to Bobby, won’t stop torturing him.

     Can Bobby survive the summer?  Will Dr. Kahn work him to death, or does Willie end up killing him?  And what is going on with Joanie?   This could have been a good story with important lessons on fighting prejudice and standing up for oneself against bullying.   Unfortunately, I don’t think that it is well told, and there are several aspects of the book to which many parents would object.  In addition to some slang terms for urination and girls’ breasts, both cursing (the “d” and “h” words) and profanity (the names of God and Jesus as exclamations) are found, the words a** for the rear end and bas*ard are frequently used, there are some references to “making out,” and the terms “faggot” and “fag” are thrown around quite a bit.  Also several instances of smoking cigarettes occur.  And while the word “masturbation” is not mentioned, there is a section which appears to describe it.  Am I imagining things?  See what you think.

     “I once had a daydream in which I was the invisible boy….About a year ago, in that daydream, I started using my invisibility to sneak into the girls’ locker room at school.  In the beginning I just sort of skulked around the locker room, watching them undress, but then I got bolder and stood very close, and every so often I might touch someone.  In my daydreams, they never screamed or ran away.  I would get good warm feelings that started in my belly and flowed down.  Sometimes, if I was alone in the house, or in a locked bathroom, I would stroke myself until the warm feelings became a throbbing drumbeat that exploded.”  Ugh!  For 12 year olds?  Lewd at best.  I really cannot recommend this very highly for godly young people.  Also, I didn’t care much for the ending, as it seemed to leave me hanging with several issues left unresolved.  The book is the basis the 2018 motion picture Measure of a Man, starring Donald Sutherland and Blake Cooper.

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