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The Vine: July 31, 2009

Submitted by on July 31, 2009 – 10:51 AM19 Comments

Hi Sars,

I'm looking for a book I read about twelve years ago; I'm not even sure it was a good book, but it's bugging me. It was in the section of my school library as the Judy Blumes, but definitely wasn't her.

It was an American book, and the plot centred around two sisters going on holiday with their father, and their new stepmother and her son. The older girl was a cheerleader hoping to gain weight; in fact the part that stuck in my mind was a conversation in which she thought it would be great if you could just grab fat off other people and slap it onto yourself, even if the result would be "that people would be scared to get in an elevator with fat people."

The younger girl resented her stepbrother, who was sarcastic, and I think nerdy. The only other standout scene featured the youngest daughter going on a rollercoaster several times and making herself sick. I'm afraid I don't really remember much else, so I'm not giving you much to go on.

I'm not sure why this book stuck in my mind so much, though it's possible that it's because I was mostly reading books set in Victorian boarding schools up until then. If any of your readers can help, I'd be very grateful!

Many thanks,

I don't know, maybe I just want my niece to read something that doesn't praise skinny!

*****

Sars,

Please help. I'm making myself crazy trying to remember the title of a book I started but didn't finish a few years back.

Here's what I remember: It starts with two friends, one of them overweight and insecure, and one of them pretty and shallow. They have decided that they're going to lose their virginity to this shady guy that they've met, and they're having a race to see who gets to sleep with him first. The overweight friend sets up to race so they each start at one end of Manhattan and meet in the middle. She wins the race because she starts from the southern tip and her shallow friend, who starts at the northern tip, is distracted by all the stores on Fifth.

So, the night that she sleeps with the guy, he invites some other woman over (I think she might have been a prostitute) and this other woman ends up getting killed. It was through the fault of the shady guy, but he tries to pin it on the overweight friend. And that's where I had to stop because I was really busy and reading three other books at the time.

Now I can't remember the name of the book, the author (I'm pretty sure it was a woman), or any of the characters' names. And my searches with the criteria I do have (chubby friend, New York race, virginity, death) have turned up some pretty appalling things, but no book title. This is nagging at me and it's totally crazy-making. Can your readers help?

The girl who Googled "chubby Manhattan death race" in desperation

*****

I hope the readers can help me out with this one. Back in middle school, a friend of mine had this beautiful children's book. It was about an explorer who discovered a colony of strange creatures, shaped something like pears but covered with fine green fur. They also looked like they were smiling, although they didn't seem to have any kind of mouth.

If I'm remembering right, the creatures' life cycle had three stages: the regular fur-covered stage, the wrinkled "elderly" stage, and the baby-stage where they looked like little green tear-shaped blobs of gel. The main story is about how popular the creatures become as pets, until a toddler accidentally ingests a baby-creature, and starts turning into one of them.

Wow, with all that information you'd think I could at least remember the NAME. The friend (who I've since lost touch with) who owned this was the same person who introduced me to "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" and the "Asterix" comics, so there's a good chance that the book is as cool as I remember.

Like I really needed another children's book obsession after finally getting a copy of "The Jeremy Mouse Book"

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19 Comments »

  • LLyzabeth says:

    Ooo, I totally remember the last one, except the title of course, or the author. But I DO remember the bit about the kid eating the little green teardrop shaped one, except I don't think he really ate it, he was holding it in his hand while he was sleeping and he kind of absorbed it, and everybody THOUGHT he'd eaten it…

    Totally not helpful, but wow is that a bit of surreal for the day…

  • Natalie says:

    Man, I don't know, but I wish I did know this chubby Manhattan death race book, it sounds kind of awesome.

  • Tiffany says:

    Wow, that first one sounds SO FAMILIAR, but of course I can't remember the name. I can't wait until someone else figures it out, because I am going to have to pick it up from the library now!

  • Alicia says:

    I'm pretty sure the first one is Animal, the vegetable and John D. Jones by Betsy Byars. Here's the description…
    It was supposed to be a great vacation for everyone. Clara and Deanie were thrilled about spending time with their father now that the divorce was final. But they're surprised and horrified at having to share Dad with his girl friend and her stuck-up son right in the same beach house! And for his part, John D. Jones can't stand the arrangement either, especially the squabbling girls, whom he dubs the Animal and the Vegetable.

    When Clara falls asleep on her plastic raft and is washed out to sea, everyone is hopeful until the float turns up without her. It's the first time they've all pulled together But is it too late to reveal their true feelings?

    I remember it as being a good book but that was years ago…

  • Laura says:

    I KNOW I've read the second one…I'm going home for lunch in a bit and I'm going to go through my books to see if I can recognize the title. It's been bothering me for a half hour now…google is not helping me! :)

  • Maire says:

    I think the second book is Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis (http://tiny.cc/fFbU4 ). It's funny, I started it – but I lent it to a friend before I was finished. Now I've got the spark to get it back to read the rest!

  • Kelly says:

    I really want to know about the manhattan death race book now.

  • Laura says:

    Nevermind- found it! Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis. Fun read!

  • Grainger says:

    The first one sounds like "The Long Secret", by Louise Fitzhugh. It's a sequel (of sorts) to "Harriet The Spy".

  • Lily says:

    @Grainger – nope, it's not The Long Secret. that was one of my favorite books from childhood; better even than Harriet the Spy, I think.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    Here's Wally Lamb's synopsis of "Speak Softly…" as found on the B&N website:
    shy, overweight New York City schoolgirl Carole Mason heading to a Vermont cabin, where she intends to lose her virginity to handsome but venal Eddie Lindbaeck. Soon after she does, Eddie's friend Rita shows up for a threesome. When a bout of rough sex leaves Rita dead, Eddie convinces the drunken Carole that she broke Rita's neck. Carole's best friend, Naomi, arrives at the cabin, and the three of them dump Rita's body in a snowdrift, swearing to never reveal what has happened. The reader knows (if Carole doesn't) that Eddie and Naomi will use this secret to make her life a living hell. Eddie demands that Carole give him stolen presents, extorts money from her and seduces her mother. Carole responds by leaving college and starting a new life as a waitress in Manhattan. Eddie finds her, and she runs again, and again, winding up in Vermont not far from where they buried Rita years before. Eddie and Naomi turn up and cause more trouble until a final confrontation settles the matter once and for all. There aren't many surprises, but this is well-written and gripping enough that readers will stay up late to see whether beleaguered, tortured Carole can free herself from the despicable Eddie.

  • Tashi says:

    Thank you for figuring out the Manhattan Death Race one. It sounds great, in a fabulously trashy I hope they have it at the library kind of way.

  • jen says:

    I loooooved that Betsy Byars book. The sister used to tan standing up, moving clockwise with the sun, and the heroine likened her to a roast chicken on a spit.

    Chubby Manhattan death race is hilarious.

  • Sandra says:

    No, none of them are "The Long Secret".

  • Screamapiller says:

    "Chubby Manhattan Death Race"… I hope to see that band on a double bill along with "Absent of Marshmallows"!

  • Allison says:

    Thank you to all who found my chubby Manahttan death race book! I can finally pay attention to the other things that are driving me crazy.

  • Laura says:

    It is The Animal, The Vegetable, and John D. Jones by Betsy Byars! How did I forget someone getting washed out to sea? Thanks!

  • Wendy says:

    This is surreal. The bit from the first book, "it would be great if you could just grab fat off other people and slap it onto yourself etc" is literally the only thing I remember from a book I read in my teen years, and yet looking at the Betsy Byars book, I have no memory of the title, the events, or even why I would have chosen to read it. If the elevator bit wasn't in there too, I'd say I was remembering a similar conversation in a different book.

  • Grainger says:

    Wendy: Ha! Me too! That entire book and that's the ONLY part that I remembered, but I remembered it as soon as I read it. (I'm not sure why I thought it was The Long Secret; I guess I just thought it was the kind of surreal thing that Fitzhugh would put in her Harriet books.)

    Hey, did you read "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing"? For some reason that was one of my favorites.

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