In K.L. Going’s Fat Kid Rules the World
, Troy, a teenage boy, thinks about ending his life. He’s perched at the edge of a subway platform, thinking of jumping onto the tracks. Troy deals with self-image issues, caused in large part by his weight; he weighs almost three hundred pounds. Before he can end his life, however, Troy is distracted by Curt, a musician who is popular, talented, and also emaciated. Troy and Curt become friends throughout the course of the novel, and that friendship drives changes in their character.
Curt is on the hunt for a drummer in his new band, Rage/Tectonic and wants Troy to fill the role. Troy is excited to participate, at least until he thinks about how he hasn’t played drums since middle school and even then, he didn’t play them a lot. While the idea of performing on stage appeals to him, it also strikes fear into him. Curt, determined to have Troy for his drummer, tells him everything will go well. They have a gig in five weeks, so Curt arranges for Troy to take drum lessons to brush up on his skills and confidence.
Troy cuts classes to meet with Curt to practice. His friendship with Curt earns him newfound respect among his classmates, but not everything is going well. Troy realizes the more he learns about Curt that his friend has an addiction to prescription drugs. To make matters worse for Curt, he’s homeless because he can’t tolerate living with his stepdad. As a result, he always sleeps in different places and doesn’t always get food all the time—when he does get food, he binges on it.
Troy’s relationship with food is different; he sought comfort from it after the death of his mother. He also became withdrawn and didn’t have many friends. Because of this, and the changes that start to happen for Troy, his father supports his position as drummer in Rage/Tectonic, even when Troy is nervous about failing during his drum lessons with Ollie, Curt’s friend. Troy’s brother, on the other hand, doesn’t show the same support, but his father’s decision to back him boosts his confidence. However, his father does warn Troy to take care around Curt, because of Curt’s lifestyle.
Troy ultimately decides not to be a drummer for Rage/Tectonic, but he goes to a show when Curt invites him. He goes backstage, where the energy of the show and the music inspire him to want to get involved after all. So, Troy spends the next few weeks hard at work trying to improve his drumming skills and joins Rage/Tectonic. On the day of his first gig, Troy is so nervous that he vomits on stage. This stage fright makes him decide that he’d be better off hiding out at home, and once again, he looks to food for comfort. Ollie calls him a few days later to say that Curt thinks Troy left him hanging; he wants Troy to get in touch with Curt.
Troy catches up with Curt, who isn’t doing well. As they’re talking, Curt crumbles to the ground, so Troy takes him to the emergency room. There, they learn that Curt is fighting a serious case of pneumonia. Curt stays at the hospital to heal since he hasn’t anywhere else he can go, and Troy keeps him company until both of them are healed. At the end of the book, Curt and Troy find themselves on stage, performing successfully.
One of the most prominent themes of Fat Kid Rules the World
is self-esteem. Troy has dealt with self-esteem issues for years, stemming from his grieving process after his mother’s death. Throughout the course of the story, Curt tries to boost Troy’s self-esteem, but it doesn’t work until Curt’s needs draw Troy out of his house. Curt’s sickness helps Troy look to something other than food for comfort, and by the end of the story, Troy’s self-esteem is boosted. He has confidence on stage and feels ready to take on the world via their musical journey.
Friendship is another important theme, as it becomes the driving force for both Troy’s and Curt’s transformations. Their friendship initially saves Troy’s life as Curt distracts him from his suicidal thoughts, and later, their friendship helps save Curt when he falls ill with pneumonia. Beyond that, the friendship these two share helps them heal in other ways, too.
K.L. Going received a number of awards and honors for Fat Kid Rules the World
, including the Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award in 2004, the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year Award, the Booklist Editor’s Choice Award, the Miami Herald Best Book of the Year Award, and the Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Readers’ Choice Award, to name a few.