The Fat Girl


How did I get it?:
I bought it!


Jeff Lyons can’t stand Ellen de Luca, the fat girl in his ceramics class. She’s huge, clumsy, can’t throw a pot to save her life, and stares at Jeff all the time. But he’s a “nice guy” and feels terrible when Ellen overhears his hurtful remarks about her. The “crumbs of kindness” he tosses her way soon turn into advice on weight loss, college, clothes, hair . . . and, to everyone’s surprise, good-looking Jeff actually dumps his pretty girlfriend to be with the fat girl! Re-creating Ellen is a labor of love, Jeff thinks. But as her pounds melt away, Jeff resents the happy, independent young woman he has unleashed. Where is the gratitude for all he’s done for her?

With this darkly ironic take on the classic Pygmalion tale, Marilyn Sachs offers young readers a candid portrayal of what happens when the intoxicating thrill of control is confused with love.


The Fat Girl was published in 1984. It’s older than I am, but as I was reading it, I didn’t feel like I was reading a book published in the 80’s. The ‘darkly ironic’ take on Pygmalion was what initially drew me to this book. I absolutely adore Pygmalion (and My Fair Lady) I thought The Fat Girl was a quick and easy read, but I did have my issues with it. I shall try and explain my reasons why.

I found The Fat Girl actually quite a disturbing read in places. Jeff is a bit of an asshole character. He’s good looking and he knows it. Everyone knows it. He dates Ellen, a girl he has constantly called fat and noted several times that he feels disgusted by. The reason he dates her is purely for power. Ellen falls completely in love with him and can’t believe that he wants to spend time with her of all people. Jeff can manipulate Ellen. He tells her what to wear, what to eat, how to wear her make up. He completely controls her which I found incredibly uncomfortable.

Jeff is a complex character. I think his controlling behaviour towards Ellen is down to the demons in his own personal life that he can’t control. Of course, this does not excuse the dominating and controlling behaviour, but the reader can began to understand but not excuse why Jeff is acting the way he does. Jeff is never physically aggressive to the people in his life, but we all know that sometimes emotional abuse can be more harmful. Jeff had good intentions to start with. He wanted to give Ellen more confidence in herself and for her to learn to stand up for herself. Ellen does completely change but she has enough confidence to do what she wants to do in the end and I think that’s a really positive thing!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!- to some… This is an interesting read about controlling relationships, but it was uncomfortable in places and I can imagine it would be too much for some readers.