Today's adolescents are obsessed with body image. Statistics show that girls are especially worried about being overweight, with some dieting for the first time as young as ten years old. Author and teen advice columnist, Cherie Bennett, touches the heart of this teen obsession with weight in her novel Life in the Fat Lane. The story is at times funny, at times heart-wrenching, and at all times realistic.

Lara Ardeche lives the life every teen dreams. She's thin, popular, a straight-A student, and a beauty pageant winner from a long line of pageant queens. To top it off she's a nice person who cares about her peers, evidenced by her friendships with kids from both the "popular" and "unpopular" crowds. Her enviable life fades when she rapidly begins to gain weight no matter how hard she diets and exercises. Within seven months she gains 100 pounds. Though Lara tries to convince her parents and pageant consultant that her problem is physical, they believe she's "letting herself go" due to adolescent troubles. A battery of medical tests from a variety of specialists all show negative results. When she is finally diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder, the long-awaited "magic wand" solution is not part of her fate. She may remain fat forever.

Bennett accurately portrays Lara's struggles to deal with her imperfect life and the many compounding family problems she had been too self-absorbed to notice before her weight problem. She battles self-hatred, learns who her true friends are, feels her father's embarrassment and denial of her disorder, and faces prejudice as an overweight person. Lara is not the only one in her family who learns that beauty is something from within and that living the life expected of her by others will not bring her happiness. Bennett knows and tells Lara's story from first-hand experience, having gained weight from steroids prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis. Her captivated readers will find a new definition for perfection as they follow Lara's journey to inner happiness.

Reviewed by Lisa Wroble.

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