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Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders

By Katherine Keller on July 31, 2015 2:14 PM | Permalink

Geoff Herbach

Sourcebooks, 2014, 311 pages.

Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
High School: 9-12
Juvenile Fiction: JuvFic Herbach

Gabe "Chunk" Johnson plays trombone in his high school's band. In the past few years he's gained weight from comfort eating binges because his mother abandoned the family when he was in 8th grade, and also because he plunks several dollars into the school soda machine every day; the proceeds go to fund the band. Then the band teacher announces that there will be no band camp this summer due to lack of money ... just as there's an announcement for a new cheerleading squad. When Gabe finds out that all the money from the soda machine will be going to fund the cheer squad, that tears it. Gabe is done being the class clown (and the fat boy). He's going to step up and save the Minnetonka Lake Area High School Band. Readers learn the whole story of the "Spunk River War" (and Gabe’s involvement in it) as told to his attorney, Mr. Rodriguez, and through additional documents submitted to the court.

Of course, none of the above captures how side-splittingly funny Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders is. Gabe, like many geeks sees (certain) things about his home and school life with aching clarity. In other ways he's completely oblivious about events taking place around him. The humor comes from the actual events of the story: Gabe's calls for civil disobedience take on a life of their own when the army of geekitude unites; Gabe's recounting of these events to authorities; and of course, those things that the reader (and Mr. Rodriguez) see that Gabe does not.

Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders is a wonderful read in and of itself, but it will resonate with anybody who struggles with weight, being bullied, just not fitting in, or who wants to make a big change in their life but doesn't know where to start. What makes the book so insightful is that Gabe is no marble model, he's also just as guilty of looking down at others lower on the food chain as the cheer squad and jocks are at looking down on him. The story also has a really upbeat ending. Justice is served … and that's a hilariously funny twist of its own, while Gabe also gets the girl -- even though he set out to save the band. (A girlfriend just sort of happened along the way of standing up for himself.)

Bibliotherapy Topics: Bullying, Navigating School Life, Relationships with Family Members - Character struggles with family relationships, Self Esteem - Character deals with low self-esteem, Self Image - Character struggles with defining self or struggles to be happy with how they see him/herself


Katherine Keller -- CML Evening and Weekend Supervisor