Thursday, March 5, 2015

Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan Blog Tour: Guest Post + Review + Giveaway

Hey readers! Hope you guys are gearing up for an awesome weekend! I will be traveling to Austin, TX for the Austin Book Bash, but before I go, I have an awesome book tour to share with you guys. I've been pumped to share my thoughts on this read with you guys. PLUS I have an exclusive guest post from our author. Thanks for stopping by, let's talk about Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan:

Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan
Published by: Albert Whitman & Company
Publication date: March 1st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Henry “Biggie” Abbott is the son of one of Finch, Iowa‘s most famous athletes. His father was a baseball legend and his step-dad is a close second. At an obese 300+ pounds though, Biggie himself prefers classroom success to sports. As a perfectionist, he doesn’t understand why someone would be happy getting two hits in five trips to the plate. “Forty percent, that’s an F in any class,” he would say. As Biggie’s junior year begins, the girl of his dreams, Annabelle Rivers, starts to flirt with him. Hundreds of people have told him to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play ball, but Annabelle might be the one to actually convince him to try. What happens when a boy who has spent his life since fourth grade trying to remain invisible is suddenly thrust into the harsh glare of the high school spotlight?

Derek E. Sullivan is an award-winning reporter and columnist at the Rochester Post-Bulletin in Minnesota. As a reporter, he has written more than 1,000 stories about the lives of teenagers, which he attributes to helping him find his YA voice. He has an MFA from Hamline University and lives in Minnesota with his wife and three sons.

Guest Post

"Online friends vs. school friends" 

I wrote BIGGIE as a coming-of-age story. My goal was to take 17-year-old Henry “Biggie” Abbott on a nine-month journey, during which he goes from being a lonely, paranoid overweight teen to a happier, active one. Since I finished BIGGIE, I have had some great discussions on whether Biggie’s life actually improved at the end of the book.

I guess the answer to that question depends on your opinion of online relationships. When we first meet Biggie, his social needs are met by talking online with girls around the United States. He has more than 100 female friends, who chat and text with him regularly. When he comes home from school, he, in a comfortable element, is able to not only flirt with girls, but also listen to their problems and be the “quiet supportive guy” they need. Biggie feels important. More importantly, Biggie feels cool.

At school, Biggie feels like a loser. He doesn’t excel at athletics like his father and mother. He is overweight and struggles in face-to-face conversation. He has no friends at Finch High School. Biggie is in no activities. Each day, he only wants to arrive at school before the first bell and leave minutes after the last one. Once in his room though, he has comfortable conversations. He and his long-distance friends talk for hours.

It’s a life. It’s a fun, interesting life, but is it real life or fantasy?

Things change for Biggie, which his real-life, hometown dream girl Annabelle calls this online life “weird.” After she tells Biggie what his classmates think of him, Biggie decides to change his life. He spends less time with his online “girlfriends” and more time with boys on the school’s baseball team. Along the way, they make fun of his music, his clothes, his shyness with girls and even made him vomit on purpose. Yes, these are cruel acts, but I still feel like a life spent off the laptop and outside of the bedroom is better than one spent all alone.

It took Biggie 248 pages, but he finally realizes that not only did his friends play some pranks on him, they also supported him. When Biggie meets a new girl, his friends talk him up. When Biggie says he is going to play baseball, they agree he should and offer support. Biggie expects to get laughed at, but instead makes real relationships.

While all of Biggie’s relationships are rocky, during his journey, Biggie finds real connections with his family and friends. Helped by the fact that he lost 70 pounds, Biggie starts to feel comfortable in society. While still quiet, Biggie starts to fit in with others.

Yes, I believe Biggie’s life is so much better at the end of the book than the beginning, even though he has fewer friends and more anxious moments. At the beginning he is going through the motions, by the end he is living life.


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My Thoughts

Biggie was one of the most interesting novels I have read so far in 2015. Through both this blog and my agency internship, I read a lot of YA material. I have to say that none of them have hit me quite like Biggie has so far!

At its' core, Biggie follows the story of Henry Abbott, an overweight high school boy, and his journey to both fitness and happiness. I was definitely able to relate very closely to this message. As a guy who has always struggled with my weight, this book was a little too real for me at times. I'll be honest, I kind of had a love-hate relationship with this read.

While extremely well-written, I'm not quite so sure I agree with all the statements the author was trying to make. I was a little put off by the fact that it was made blatantly clear that Biggie was never going to be happy if he didn't lose weight. Overweight people can be very happy in life, even in high school. Sure they get bullied a bit more, but they just have to have 'thick skin'! Henry had much larger issues that were keeping him down that was not his weight. I don't want to hate on a book that I really did enjoy overall, but I feel it is important for me to point some of these things out. Henry has a plethora of emotional issues, primarily dealing with some 'Daddy-issues'. They were extremely emotional, but I just feel like too much of everything else was going on with Henry to be like "Henry, you're fat. Lose weight, get friends. Get the girl. Be an athlete. Be happy." Oh, but let's not even talk about your EXTREMELY unhealthy cyber-stalking and overall lack of social skills. Why? Just why? While Henry seemed like your average high school boy on some levels, on other levels I was really creeped out by his actions.

I'm not going to spoil this novel for anyone, but I can just say that I, personally, did not find Biggie's story to be very believable. The outcome was too perfect and all the pieces just fell into place far too well for him. That being said, Biggie does have to deal with some serious emotions in this novel and for the most part I feel like the author handled them pretty well. High school isn't easy for anyone, much less the overweight nerdy, un-athletic crowd in a small town high school. Sullivan did both a great job of capturing the high school feel and the maturity level of the characters. These characters are clearly teenagers.

It was so interesting for me to see Henry's character development throughout the novel. I was expecting the end game to be a little different, but I was still thrilled to see a happy ending for Henry. This is definitely one of those novels I could see being turned into a Nickelodeon or Disney Channel TV movie and the young-teens would love it!

While this was definitely not my favorite read, I still, overall, found it to be favorable and am glad to have read it. I am thinking that this novel really just hit home and hit more than one sore spot for me to truly fall in love with it, but I am still giving it a positive 3-star review. Story line aside, Sullivan has written a touching story with some incredible character development thrown in. That in itself makes it a win for me! While this may not be the read for everyone, I think anyone with a soft spot for the underdog will find Biggie to their liking!

Alright guys, that's all I have for you on the topic of Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan. What did you think of that guest post? I was so glad to feature Sullivan here today and am honored he chose to write on one of the topics I had already mentioned in my review of the novel. Have you guys read Biggie? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below! Special thanks to the author and the incredible team at XPresso Book Tours for allowing me to participate! 


PS. To any readers/bloggers who may also be attending ABF this weekend, come say hey! 

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