45 Pounds (More or Less) Book Poster Image

45 Pounds (More or Less)



Painful, relatable look at teen's family and diet struggles.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Young consumers will see the potential pitfalls of purchasing items seen in infomercials. They'll also learn about eating disorders and the ways issues around food and body image can affect girls at different ages.

Positive messages

45 Pounds (More or Less) shows girls that proper diet and exercise are geared toward health and fitness, not a specific size/number.

Positive role models

Ann, the narrator of 45 Pounds (More or Less), learns a lot about herself from dieting and exploring the reasons for her food struggles. She makes significant strides toward healthy living, greater understanding of herself and others, and better self-esteem. She ultimately sets a good example for her little sister and for readers who are concerned about their weight.

Not applicable

Ann describes the warm way she feels when Jon puts his arm around her or helps her in the shoe store. There's a bit of innuendo when Ann starts working at Twisted Pretzel and Jon is her first customer; he jokes that he's glad to be "her first." Other characters discuss the fact that Ann's father cheated on her mom, and may be doing the same to Nancy, his second wife.


Ann responds to intent more than specific language: She's humiliated and wounded when she overhears other girls calling her a "fat heifer," but she laughs at her grandma, who calls everyone a "fat-ass." Lots of characters call Ann's dad a "dickhead."


There are lots of brand-name products and stores, real and fictional. Real brands include Victoria's Secret, Coke, Cheetos, Little Debbie snack cakes, Facebook, and YouTube.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

An old friend of Ann's steals beer and serves it to other teens at a pool party. At another friend's backyard party, a mean girl spike's someone's drink with an unspecified spirit, and the victim becomes drunk and sick. Ann's grandmother smokes cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that K.A. Barson's first novel, 45 Pounds (More or Less), offers a painfully realistic view of a teen girl's struggles with weight and self-loathing. Ann digs deep into the reasons she finds solace in eating, including exploring her relationship to fast food and the depiction of body images in popular culture; numerous food and clothing brands (real and fictional) are used in this context. Characters call others or themselves fat (or "cow," "heifer," or "fat-ass"). Issues surrounding marriage and family are also important; Ann's parents divorced because of her father's infidelity, and they are each are married to new partners (many characters call Ann's adulterous dad a "dickhead"). There's a loving, committed lesbian relationship, with a wedding on the horizon. Also note that some teens in the book consume alcohol, and Ann's grandma smokes cigarettes.

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What's the story?

When 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) opens, overweight teenager Ann Galardi is enduring the pain of clothes shopping with her ultra-thin mom, to be followed by lunch at the mall food court. It's a snapshot of Ann's roller-coaster relationship with her family, food, weight, and body image. She seems stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and self-medicating with food. But when her Aunt Jackie announces in June that she and her longtime partner, Chris, will be married in August, and she wants Ann to be a bridesmaid, Ann promises herself that she'll lose 45 pounds and fit into a great dress by the time of the wedding. This marks the beginning of a journey in which Ann gets her first job, loses a friend, gains a friend, gets a crush, starts an infomercial diet plan, learns to dance, and deeply explores issues concerning her parents' divorce and the ways her relationships to food and family are intertwined.

Is it any good?


45 Pounds (More or Less) is not an easy read. Ann suffers numerous indignities (both real and imagined); she's in a lot of pain, and it's hard to witness her sadness and humiliation. However, her story is compelling  and entertaining, and there's a lot of goodness to be found in her world. She's a very relatable character, and any teens who have struggled with weight or body image will learn a lot from this character.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dieting and body image. What, if anything, did you learn about these from 45 Pounds (More of Less)?

  • What does Ann learn as a consumer when she buys a diet system that she sees on an infomercial? What finally changes her relationship to dieting and food?

  • Thinking about Ann's experience, next time you watch a TV show geared toward kids or teens, think about what the commercials say about food, weight, and body image.

Book details

Author:K.A. Barson
Genre:Body Awareness
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Viking Juvenile
Publication date:July 11, 2013
Number of pages:256
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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