The Virginia Shreves Series

May contain minor spoilers throughout discussion

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
The Virginia Shreves Series Book One
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
251 Pages
Published April 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★☆
Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves has a larger than average body and a plus size inferiority complex. She lives on the Web, snarfs junk food, and follows the Fat Girl Code of Conduct. Her stuttering best friend has just moved to Walla Walla, of all places. Her new companion, Froggy Welsh the Fourth has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he'll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves, Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend, Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV and older siblings Ana's and rugby god Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture perfect family. Or so she's convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything.

With irreverent humor, insight, and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine whose story will speak to every teen who struggles with family expectations and serve as a welcome reminder that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

Carolyn Mackler's acclaimed book has been updated for a new audience and is as relevant, funny and full of heart as it was when it was first published fifteen years ago.

The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I
The Virginia Shreves Series Book Two
Written by Carolyn Mackler
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Published October 1st 2018
288 Pages
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
Add to Goodreads
★★★★
Six months after Virginia decides to ignore the Fat Girl Code of Conduct and make her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Fourth official, things are getting complicated. She's not sure she still likes Froggy, her mum has betrayed her to the meanest girl in school, and her feelings about her brother Byron are still a mess since he was suspended from university for date rape.

But then police come to their apartment and arrest Byron. As Virginia tries to figure it all out, she meets Sebastian, a guy with his own private drama. They make a pact not to talk about their troubles, but then a terrible secret comes out that could ruin everything.
Fifteen year old Virginia Shreves believes she's an imperfection within her wealthy, flourishing family. Her father a womaniser within his monogamous marriage, her mother a former overweight adolescent, overcompensating. Existing within the shadow of sister Anaïs, presently volunteering in a remote village in Burkina Faso, Africa and brother Byron, the Shreves family paragon and Columbia University honour student, Virginia experiences moments of body negativity based on her weight. Her mother Phyllis Shreves is an adolescent psychologist and overweight as an adolescent, reprimands her youngest daughter on the importance of young women maintaining an attractive appearance.

At Brewster Academy, the prestigious New York Private college, Virginia is ostracised and tormented, her childhood and only friend Shannon studying abroad this year and her Monday rendezvous with Froggy Welsh the Forth in her family penthouse apartment, an often mortifying experience. Her mother again counting calories, Virginia attempting another diet regime under duress and Byron has been suspended from Columbia University pending an investigation.

Body Negativity
Adolescent young women, women and bodies identifying as women are measured by our appearance. From a young age, we're conditioned to believe femininity as pliable and lithe, luminescent skin. Females existing in traditional positions as the caregiver, for male objectification. Humiliated and ridiculed at the Academy, Virginia has created a Fat Girl Code of Conduct. A series of guidelines to ensure she remains unnoticed.
There is an unspoken rule that if you're not on the popular side of things, you shouldn't take up too much space. 
At home, Virginia is coerced into healthier eating options, her father continues to reiterate that only slenderised bodies are attractive, commentating unnecessarily on Virginia's weight and body. Virginia experiences abdominal discomfort from starvation, confronting and a controversial aspect of the narration as she is praised for depriving her body.

No Such Thing As Perfection
The Virginia Shreves Series illiterates the importance of perception. How we perceive ourselves and others. How we continuously reprimand ourselves and place others on infeasible pedestals, unable to meet our unrealistic expectations and our behaviour attracting consequences. Throughout the narrative, Virginia realises that acceptance begins with confidence, that she is deserving of love and acceptance.

Curvaceous Chicks Deserve Pleasure
Cognitive, physical and emotional stimulation. Although Virginia is conscious of her body, she allows herself to enjoy intimacy without being sexually active. Her relationship with Froggy Welsh the Forth in particular. It is a positive experience, ensuring she is comfortable and consenting. A wonderful precedent for physical adolescent relationships and learning about your partner.

Consent
Although the narrative is chronicled from Virginia's perspective, Byron Shreves is a character of significance. A  Columbia University student, acclaimed sportsman and exemplification. After an intoxicated incident, Byron is accused of sexual assault and suspended from University pending an investigation. Virginia is disgusted although her parents are only concerned for Byron and his future, how his actions will leave lasting consequences on his family. It's Virginia who is concerned for his victim, a young woman attempting to reclaim empowerment after the terrifying incident.

In The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things, the narrative explores the consequences for Byron, Virginia's frustration is palpable as her parents remain deliberately ignorant. During The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I, we experience the trauma of sexual assault from a survivor standpoint.

The Virginia Shreves Series is a wonderful, conversational and often confrontational read that I cannot emphasise enough the significance of reading both novels consecutively. Thoroughly enjoyed it. 

15 comments

  1. I hadn't heard of this series, so thank you.
    I love that we are seeing more books like this and that it sounds like it's done quite well.
    Awesome review Kelly <3 :-)

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    1. I enjoyed the sequel more because it felt as though Virginia took control of her situation and gained confidence in herself. I think it's important to read the series consecutively to really appreciate the narrative. I would love to see what you think of these Sarah.

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  2. Well. isn't this super relevant right now??!!! I might be to ragey about real life events to read this at the moment but they sound wonderful.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. Apart from the few issues I had with the first book of the series, I really enjoyed the sequel as it felt more complete. Overall I really enjoyed both and found the series near impossible to put down.

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  3. I read the second book before I knew it was a sequel/companion novel. I was able to enjoy the story, and it didn't feel like it was dependent on information I didn't know. I also discovered that the second book was written eleven or so years after the first! Crazy, right? I thought the book was an accurate portrayal of our society today, and I adored Virginia. I hated that she lived with people that couldn't accept her and her body/way of thinking. They were also passive aggressive with her sister, and too accepting of their son. It's something we see too much of today, and I think this author raises a lot of important questions. There are definitely discussions to be had with this one!

    Ironically, I borrowed the first book from my library just last week! I was checking out books for the kids when I saw it on display. Did you know it's listed as a banned book? The library was trying to promote books that had been banned, encouraging people to read them, and I was surprised to see this one on there. What's the reason? Sexual content? The fact that a girl speaks openly about her wants and desires? Harry Potter was on there, too. When did magic become a bad thing? Shouldn't we want our kids to have imaginations and explore new worlds? Looking for Alaska was on there... one of my favorites. It really bugs me that there are banned books at all. No book should be banned for any reason. People should have the right to read what they want.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. I know a lot of Catholic schools won't allow Harry Potter in school libraries because they believe it promotes witchcraft. Ridiculous right? Heaven forbid we should allow children the freedom to choose their reading material and Harry Potter encourages children to read and commit to what are pretty lengthy books as well. I'm assuming it was the sexual assault, perhaps they felt it was too realistic or confronting for teens, which should be encouraged to talk about consent. Society needs to have these discussions regardless of parental comfort.

      It was! Fifteen years later I believe. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things has been updated for the modern day adolescent to be able to connect to Virginia's environment. As a standalone, book one would have frustrated me. I felt it was incomplete and really skimmed over he issues of body negativity, eating disorders, consent and sexual assault among many others.

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    2. Children should be able to read whatever interests them. It's how they grow their imaginations and expand their views on the world. It sparks creativity and promotes a love of literature. Being told you can't read certain things is ridiculous. Everyone should be able to choose, and then come to their own conclusions. Parents should teach their children good values in life, and also let them enjoy books that might go against those values. Reading is sometimes the only way for us to experience certain things.

      You're so right. Society needs to have discussions that make us uncomfortable, or things will never change.

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  4. I've never read either of these, but I've heard really good things. I like that it focuses on body positivity and that the MC realizes that she can be bigger and still have confidence and love herself, and find love. I've never been skinny so these type of books are something that I really appreciate, even as an adult. As for the themes of sexual assault - that's such a timely topic these days, but it's always been there, and people are always more worried about the guy and not the victim. It's not right.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I couldn't agree more Lauren. I can only imagine how positive and affirming it might have been if not for Virginia's parents, especially her mother. I couldn't find anything likeable when it came to her parents, her treatment of both daughters, Anaïs less so but they favoured Byron regardless of his actions. It sadly reflects our society today doesn't it. I'd love to see what you think of the series Lauren.

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  5. as funny as it sounds, even though i admire Virginia's tenacity, I think there's too much going on in the book? But seems like you enjoyed it and thus I might give it a fair go

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    1. There is but then again, life can be incredibly chaotic can't it. I've always believed in the saying, when it rain's it pours because it always seems to happen whenever disaster strikes. I loved how Virginia handled herself though, such an incredible character.

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  6. I have no read either of these, but be still my heart, I might adore Virginia already. I can tell how so many readers will relate to her. The addition of Byron and his storyline just adds another bit of complexity to Virgina's story -- these two books sound so impressive.

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    1. Even as an adult, I found Virginia relatable and could see so much of my adolescent self in her. I think we all have periods of self doubt and esteem and it really emphasises the need to surround yourself with people who uplift you rather than negatively influence your life.

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  7. OMG, I remember reading The Earth My Butt and other Big Round Things when I was an actual teen I can't believe it's been rereleased and there's a sequel!!! I admit I remember nothing from it though and I'm sad I don't remember more but I'm pretty sure I was 15 when I last read it so that's over 10 years, I'm not surprised I've forgotten things. It does sound like it had a lot of important messages within it's pages (and I hope they continue to be explored in the second book) and so it seems it was definitely a positive read during my earlier years and hopefully I hope it had a good impact in my attitude to these issues. I'm off to see if I can find copies of these books now, I'm kicking myself for getting rid of my original copy.

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    1. The original has been updated for the modern era but I'm really curious to see if I can track down a copy of the original to see the differences. The second book is the more positive of the two and best read in succession. It challenges the opinions and outdated views of book one, empowering Virginia especially. They're both wonderful reads and would love to see what you think of the updated version and how it's held up over time.

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