*Disclaimer: I received a PDF copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. If you’d like to check out my review policy, click here.*
All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.
To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.
Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.
Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.
Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.
Have you ever wanted to tone up your thighs? Banish bingo wings, shrink your spare tyre or make your nose straighter?
On the whole, I’m pretty happy with my body. I could lose a couple of pounds and I’d like to have skin that isn’t so prone to breakouts (people who told me it would stop when I hit my twenties: YOU LIARS) but actually, what my body is achieves and allows me to do is far more beautiful than a thigh gap.
We all have those ‘I wish I had…’ or ‘I wish I looked like…’ thoughts sometimes and that’s why I was able to relate to the main character in Tara St Pierre’s novel about body image. Just A Few Inches tells the story of popular high school student Carrie; a cheerleader with close friends, a supportive family, a bright future and the star of the high school basketball team as her boyfriend. It’s all going pretty well until 5”8 Carrie comes across the perfect dress for the Valentines’ Day Dance, which she needs to lose a couple of pounds to be able to fit into. Turning to over the counter weight loss pills to accelerate her weight loss, Carrie takes more than the recommended dose and realises far too late than instead of a shrinking waistline she’s got a shrinking body.
This is a funny little book. It’s not the sort of read that I would reach for based on the synopsis, but on the whole I did find it pretty enjoyable. The writing was easy enough to get into and St Pierre does a good job of making Carrie a sympathetic, relatable character.
Carrie also has present friends and family, who are visible throughout the story. I mention this quite a lot in my reviews, but lots of young adult books still seem to have a problem with incorporating families, unless it’s to talk about how awful they are or kill them off. Equally, lots of friendships fall by the wayside in issue books, but Just A Few Inches manages to keep all of the key players involved with the story from the beginning to the end, which was nice to see. I thought the portrayal of Carrie’s changing relationship with both of her younger sisters was a particularly strong element of the book, allowing the reader to see how Carrie’s own negative body image could plausibly begin to affect the women around her, especially her sister Amy, who at 13 is particularly impressionable.
Just A Few Inches doesn’t fit into sci-fi, magical realism or dystopia, so the shrinking body story line is a bit of an odd one. However, the explanations woven by the author were believable enough to stop the story slipping over the line into parody, without being overly technical or difficult to understand.
The second half of the book was where it all slowed down a little bit. There was quite a lot of telling instead of showing, and I got a bit frustrated with the amount of description surrounding Carrie’s height and the things that she could and couldn’t do as she got smaller and smaller. There was a lot of recurrent detail about how Carrie struggled to get onto chairs, answer her phone or fit into clothing, which took up a lot of unnecessary page time and made for a plot that was slow where it could have been snappy.
My other issue would be with the development of Carrie’s relationship with Evan. Although I liked Evan as a standalone character, the rapid progression of his and Carrie’s relationship came off as a bit rushed, with Evan evolving from nerdy-but-cute newspaper editor to ‘world’s best boyfriend’ in a matter of days. I didn’t dislike the idea of the pairing, but the execution left me without any emotional connection to the relationship, which was a shame. I did appreciate the effort that St. Pierre took to differentiate between Carrie’s relationship with Todd and her relationship with Evan, which neatly demonstrated how relationships have the power to make you feel less secure in yourself through lack of communication or openness.
In the beginning, Just a Few Inches reminded me of those cautionary books and documentaries that you used to get shown at school in order to terrify you away from drugs or sex. As I got further into the book though, I found myself likening it more to the film Freaky Friday. With a kooky plot and an important moral at the heart of the story, Just a Few Inches takes on vanity, image and the strange love/hate relationship that we all have with our bodies. It’s perhaps not a book I’d read more than once, but it’s one that I would recommend to the teenage girls that I know. It’s high time that we spent a little less time criticising ourselves for a little bit of extra padding or feet that are too wide and started appreciating our bodies for the incredible machines they are. We’ve only got one, after all.
- Author: Tara St. Pierre
- Publication Date: 31st May 2015
- Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
- Pages: 306
- Rating: 3/5
- In short: A tall tale about a small girl with a big heart.