Crutcher, Chris. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1993. 216 pages.
Eric Calhoune’s best friend, Sarah Byrnes, is sitting silently in a psychiatric ward and he does not know what to do about it. He wants to help, but she refuses to say a word to anyone. Eric and Sarah became friends in junior high school because they were both outcasts: he was fat and her face and arms were covered in burn scars from when she accidentally dumped a pot of boiling water on herself as a child. Eventually, Sarah begins speaking again, and Eric discovers that she was feigning mental illness in order to escape her deranged father. When Sarah confesses that her father was the one responsible for her injuries, Eric must decide if risking their friendship is worth ensuring Sarah’s safety or if he should leave her to her own stubborn devices.
Even though Staying Far for Sarah Byrnes was first published in 1993, it has aged well and is still pertinent to today’s teens. Crutcher has created likeable characters who find themselves thrust into extraordinary situations. While the book has occasional monologues that insert pithy sentiments into the dialogue, they do not take away from the overall message of the book. Some teens may object to them, but many readers may never notice their existence. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes is full of interesting plot twists that will keep readers turning the pages as they struggle to piece together what exactly happened to Sarah Byrnes.
The cover features a young man diving into a swimming pool, which truly does not accurately convey the meaning of the book or its complexities. By glancing at the covers, readers will likely assume that the book is solely about swimming, and while swimming is an important aspect of Eric’s life, it is not the point of the book.