Title: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet
Author: Jenny Ruden
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Publisher: Koehler Books
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Acquired Via: TLC Book Tours
Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.
Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”
Praise for Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet
“A funny, poignant, emotionally intelligent and beautifully written novel that takes the reader on a journey that is by turns heartbreaking and inspiring. I highly recommend it.” -Alisa Valdes, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
“Ruden’s debut novel is more than merely funny. It skewers our cultural obsession with the superficial, lampooning everything from fad diets to reality television and self-help gurus. And Bethany’s inner journey from bitterness to forgiveness is one that will resonate with all readers. Read it for the laughs, reread it for Ruden’s profound insight into the transformative power of forgiveness.” -Mike Mullin, author of Ashfall
I'm going to be that person. I'm the last one to show up at the party (the last stop on the tour), and I'm going to be a drag. Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet was not for me, but I can see the appeal and necessity of it being out there. The book is not about just being overweight but also examining our lives and the relationships around us. In fact, it was the relationship between Bethany and her sister, Jackie, was what made me finally give up on the book.
It amazes me what people believe they have the right to say to friends and family in the name of "love" or "concern" or whatever. I was never fat as a teenager, but I was definitely able to connect with Bethany because of my treatment at the other end of the spectrum. While overweight people are constantly harangued about losing weight, thin people are pushed to gain it. Bethany's plight became mine as I read Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet, and I got really upset about the way she was treated. While it's good that a book can get me so involved in the character's life, it made me a really unhappy reader.
Bethany's sister, Jackie, was a ditz who dragged her loser boyfriend, Doug, along on the girls' roadtrip to take Bethany to Camp Utopia. After going through her being talked down to by her best friend and mother, reading about their car ride was awful. There is a scene where he steals her food, taunts her, and then throws the food all over her, all the while saying horrible shit to her. All the while, Jackie laughs and essentially says "Oh, Doug!"
NO NO NO!!!
You know what, Jackie? If he's going to be verbally abusive to your little sister, he's going to be even worse to you. And being as she is just a kid, you should be taking up for her.
*takes a deep breath*
Yes, I probably got a little too invested, but it bothered me so much that I had to step away from the book. Sadly, I just couldn't bring myself back to it. I can't stand to see people treated like that. I know these issues need to be tackled, but I try to avoid books that upset me. Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet upset me quite a bit. Hopefully my strong feelings for Bethany's treatment will let you know whether or not the book is for you.
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About the Author
Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmer Train’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row. She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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Follow the Tour
Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet Tour Schedule
Monday, August 18th
Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Wednesday, August 20th
Friday, August 22nd
Wednesday, August 27th
Journey Through the Pages
Thursday, August 28th
Spiced Latte Reads
Friday, August 29th
Sweet Southern Home
Friday, September 5th
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received a copy of the novel from the author through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an unbiased review. It has in no way affected the outcome. All expressed opinions are awesome, honest, and completely my own.