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Karen's Young Adult Book Reviews
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Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes/Growing Season

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes


Eric Calhoune and Sarah Byrnes were best friends. They both considered themselves outcasts. They both had problem lives. Sarah had been severely burned as a young child on her face and hands and developed a tough skin because of what she endured due to her appearance. Her father had only allowed her to be cared for to save her life. Eric was considered the “fat kid.” They became friends because of their “terminal uglies.” Sarah and Eric create a school paper in order to seek revenge on those who have made their lives miserable. Eric is accused of writing the paper and takes up for Sarah when the accusation is also aimed at her. Eric decides to be part of the swimming team and in order to keep Sarah from believing he no longer wanted to be her friend he eats more while his body is slimming so that he can stay fat. Eric did this for an entire year.


Sarah suddenly becomes catatonic and will speak to no one. Eric visits her often to try and help her overcome her illness. Eventually, she confides in him and tells him her father has become more and more dangerous to live with and admits she has not told the truth about her accident. She tells Eric that her father had pushed her face against the furnace. Trying to protect herself with her hands caused her hands to be burned also. She said she needed to figure out what to do, so she devised the plan to go to the hospital until she knew what to do. She wants to find her mother. Eric confides in a teacher and she helps Sarah find her mother. Unfortunately, Sarah’s mother cannot handle the situation about her disfigurement. Sarah decides she cannot go back home even though her father insists. She decides to tell what happened when she was younger. Her father goes to jail, and she is adopted by her teacher just hours before her eighteenth birthday and hopes she will live happily ever after.


Chris Crutcher writes in such a way that the reader feels compassion for the characters and can almost feel their pain. The story captures your attention so that you want to keep reading to find out what happens. The loyalty and friendship that Eric and Sarah have for one another is very touching. Because of the issues that Crutcher writes in his novels, he has received several awards for his Young Adult Books. The issues brought up in Critical American Thought Class leave the reader thinking for themselves. The moral issue of abortion will captivate the reader as well.


One Publisher’s Weekly book reviewer writes, “While probing such issues as friendship, free speech and moral values, Crutcher tells a tale whose mordant humor, poignancy and suspense pack a breathtaking wallop ( The book reviewer also noted that, “Superb plotting, extraordinary characters and crackling narrative make this novel one to be devoured in a single unforgettable sitting.”


One teen reader who definitely enjoyed the book states, “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is definitely not your everyday book. It has its share of suspense and action, but the focus lies in Sarah Byrnes and Eric's complex and intricately crafted friendship. It is what makes the book so powerful. As a result of the author's keen perception of how teenagers talk and act, readers identify with the characters. There is a human quality not found in most literature today that makes this an attention-grabbing masterpiece” (


Crutcher, Chris. 1993. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. New York: Greenwillow Books.


Sources Book Reviews. Accessed June 28, 2005.


Teen Ink Book Reviews. Accessed June 28, 2005.

Growing Season


Rick seems to be a happy teen-ager when he receives the devastating news from his parents that they are buying a farm. He happens to be a senior in high school and looking forward to attending college the next year. He has a family who has adopted four other children.


Reluctantly, Rick goes along to help on the farm. He seems to be the resentful of the things that he has to give up in order to help out. Since he is the oldest, his parents do expect a lot from him. Two of the adopted children have severe problems and he seems to be the one that has to hold things together. Rick looks forward to spring break because his parents have promised him a trip back home to see his friends.


Eventually, he grows accustomed to what he has to do on the farm and in a way begins to like it. His plans are ruined for seeing his friends by his Uncle Fritz’s death. He knows his father cannot make it without him. Rick begins to mature not even realizing it himself. His selfish earlier begins to fade. He is lonely though and meets a girl he seems to care about. His temper almost keeps them apart. In the end, he decides to put his dreams aside and help the family on the farm.


Carter presents problems that teens face with their families and how they learn to cope. Teens seeking to find answers to their own problems will see that through the character of Rick that they too can cope with family issues and other problems they face. The book is written in such a way that the reader can relate to most of the characters in the book because they all have their own problems to solve. The humor that Carter used gives the book a balance that makes the reader want to keep reading to see what will happen next.


Carter often writes of problems teens face. “This pattern is followed in Carter's later novels, many of which have been selected for best book lists” (


Carter, Alden C. 1985. Growing Season. New York: Pacer Books.




Wisconsin Library Association, Inc.  Accessed June 28, 2005. 


Created by K. Braswell for LS5623 at Texas Woman's University.