Picture Me by Lori Weber (ARC Review)
Release date: 20 September 2013
Publisher: James Lorimer & Company
Number of pages: 168
My rating: 2/5
This book does have some good aspects to it, but those good aspects are soon overwhelmed by poor writing, narrative voices, and a terrible ending.
Picture Me is a book focused on teen bullying and other issues often faced, including teen obesity, self-image issues, eating disorders, drugs, and the loss of a parent. It is told from three perspectives. Krista is the obese person being bullied, Tessa is Krista’s friend who has lost her father from an IED in Afghanistan, and Chelsea is the bully who is dealing with a sleazy boyfriend and an ignorant mum.
Even though there isn’t really meant to be a single main character, I felt like Tessa was the main character. She seemed to get more space than the others in the book. She is the best developed and probably the most relatable. She lost her father in Afghanistan a while ago, and her family struggles with financial issues. She is a witness to Krista’s bullying, as well as being targeted by Chelsea. However, I didn’t feel as if Tessa paid enough attention to Krista while she was being bullied. She did turn out to be a good friend, but there was a lapse in the book where she didn’t really speak to Krista.
Krista is a very underdeveloped character. She is 13 and weighs 180 pounds (I think). Her dad is also obese and her mother works night shifts at a hospital and doesn’t pay enough attention to Krista and her dad. Every night, she and her dad gorge themselves on takeout food. After being bullied badly for her weight, she develops an eating disorder and starts taking dangerous weight-loss pills.
I understand that child obesity is a very complicated issue. There are many sides to this argument. However, I feel as if the issue wasn’t properly dealt with in Picture Me. We see Krista struggle with her weight, but I never felt as if she was willing to take the proper steps or change her life.
Chelsea was definitely the worst developed character.
Bullies are a very difficult perspective to write from. They are incredibly complicated people, and often have many issues of their own.
Chelsea was not portrayed very well. Her mother ignores her, but we don’t really know why. She is obsessed with celebrities and finding a better life for herself. She has a delusion that her older, scummy, drug-dealer boyfriend will be her saviour. These should have been given more attention; it’s not normal for a thirteen year-old to think these things. She is a horrible person, but I believe that she had her reasons.
I think the author wanted us to hate her, but I couldn’t. I felt sorry and concerned for her, but Chelsea never got any redemption. She had the least time in the book, and it felt like she was skimmed over.
Chelsea tapes a photo-shopped picture of Krista on her locker, which starts the torment that follows. Tessa gets attacked by Chelsea and her friends several times. People from Tessa’s past come back and reveal more of her father’s past. Chelsea gets pulled in deeper with Tyler, and even ends up handing the drugs to people.
It is implied that Chelsea was getting sexually assaulted or raped by Tyler and his friends. This is a huge deal, and it just wasn’t handled properly. There should have been a considerable impact on Chelsea and then a solution, but there wasn’t anything. Even if it was someone she loved, this is still a pretty big deal, and it definitely should have been given more attention.
I was actually sort of enjoying the book until the end. We see Tessa get a full ending. However, Krista and Chelsea didn’t get a real ending. There wasn’t really a solution to Krista’s bullying or obesity. Chelsea didn’t grow at all as a character, and her issues with her parents, her sexual assault, and her boyfriend’s general dickheadedness was all left unresolved.
When I finished the book, I frowned at my Kindle and flipped back and forth through the pages, looking for the ending or an advertisement for a second book. But I was left staring at my Kindle saying: “Wha…? Is my Kindle broken? Wait, this is it? There’s a second book, right? WHAT?! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SHIT?!”
The writing and narrative voices are just… bad. I can’t even tell you why (because I’m stupid like that), but it just comes off as bad. The POV switched from Tessa, to Krista, to Chelsea all in the space of around four pages. The voices all sound the same, which made me flip back quite a few times to find who was actually talking. The alternating POV was not done well.
Due to unresolved issues, improper handling of sexual assault, inadequate character development, and an incomplete ending, I would not recommend this book to anyone. There are much better COMPLETE books about bullying out there.
An ARC was received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.