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Literature / The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

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The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things is a 2003 Young Adult novel by Carolyn Mackler

Virgina "Ginny" Shreves is an girl with a larger than average body and an inferiority complex. With her beautiful sister, built-like-a-Greek-god brother, and successful parents, her self esteem isn't helped. Ginny's main worries are like any other teenager; her weight, her sort-of-boyfriend, and the fact that her best friend has moved away.

Amazing how a simple phone call can shatter the world as you know it.

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things covers many controversial topics, such as eating disorders, self harm, date rape, underage drinking and exploring one's sexuality. It has even been banned from some middle schools, due to the sexual content and profane language.

Followed by The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I in late 2018.


Tropes present in this novel include:

  • Be Yourself: Ginny learns to concentrate less on what people think of her and pleasing her parents and more on her own happiness and gifts.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Ginny is considered cute by at least a couple boys, like her crush Froggy and Byron's roommate and becomes this more when she stop dressing in layers and in pale colors her mother deemed "appropriate" for a blonde.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Byron isn't the best big brother to start with, but he does improve after his fall from grace. When Ginny's mother is left baffled as to why Ginny's so upset that she inadvertently got Ginny's school bully to join her kick-boxing class, Byron defends Ginny by pointing out that her kick-boxing class was her sanctuary. He's also the one who stands up for Ginny when she starts dating Annie's brother Sebastian, when even Anais is initially furious about it.
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  • Big Brother Worship: Ginny to Byron until the date rape incident comes to light. Ginny later realises she even looks down on him now.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The sequel ends with the fact that Annie has dropped the charges against Byron, meaning that he'll be spared prison and being on the sex offenders register, but it's clear that the incident has taken a huge toll on the both of them and that they might never be the same again.
  • Brainy Brunette: Most of the Shreves family minus the blonde albeit intelligent Ginny. She talks about how they have the image of being a beautiful, brown-haired family.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ginny adored her older brother. Her image of him is broken harshly. The pedestal is eventually rebuilt, but not to the same extent.
  • Bumbling Dad: Mr. Shreves, only this trope is played seriously, with his clueless advice to Byron about sex and wanting Ginny to lose weight while serving goods from the bakery.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ginny does this to both her parents. She tells her mother that for a psychologist who specialises in teenagers that she's failed Ginny on several occasions and that she's failing Byron by not making him face up to the consequences of her actions, and she then asks her father to not make negative or positive comments about her body, pointing out that it's not his to discuss.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Ginny and her friend Shannon get really drunk on New Year's Eve.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Ginny's mother is a teen psychology expert....yet she barely spends time with Ginny and regards her as the Black Sheep when she isn't lecturing her on her weight; Anais called her out on this phony image when the woman disagreed with her decision on joining the Peace Corps; she and her husband try to block Columbia University from prosecuting Byron for date-raping a girl.
  • Cool Big Sis:
    • Anais seems to be this although she isn't present during the book. She is pretty much the most progressive, open-minded, thoughtful, honest, and non-pretentious member of the family.
      • Anais makes an appearance in the sequel and while Ginny still admires her big sister, she also starts to realise she has flaws just like the rest of the Shreves family, especially since Anais does start acting quite pretentious about her time spent in the peace corps.
    • Annie is apparently this to Sebastian, though he's quick to note that she also has her flaws at times.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Anais finds some snarky things to say about some family members: regarding her father's ham-fisted attitude towards sex ed for boys, her Mother's insistence on maintaining a facade even calling her "Cleopatra-The Queen Of Denial", and snorting at another praise of Byron. All in a flashback.
    • Alyssa Wu is revealed to be this. When Ginny comments that everyone is being nice to one another, regardless of clique, after a teacher's death Alyssa replies it's only a phase and to enjoy it while it lasts. She makes note of this in an amusing manner worthy of Austen.
  • Defector from Decadence:
    • Anais leaves behind a city that reveres models and a wealthy family that lives in denial to work in the Peace Corps after college and discovering Feminism in the form of Ani Di Franco.
    • Ginny becomes this to a lesser extent when she stops trying to please people (esp. her family) all the time and more on forming her own identity. She even ponders this when being told she's a genuine Shreaves by her family if it means doing what she wants without caring about others or maybe it means she's following her own path.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Towards the end of the book, Ginny delivers this to Byron for how she always looked up to him and how he disappointed her with how he ignores her and for the rape he committed.
  • Dumb Blonde: What Ginny feels in comparison to her family full of high-achieving brown haired people. She isn't successful at French, she makes good enough grades and she prefers reading magazines to the classics.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: The Bri Girls are blonde and popular, fitting this role while subverted with Ginny, who is blonde but feels inferior to her family.
  • Fat and Proud: Ginny, with the help of her plus-sized teacher Ms. Crowley, learns to embrace her size and body.
  • Fiery Redhead: Played with regarding Ginny's friend Shannon Malloy. She is normally an even-tempered girl with a stutter with only three moments of impulsiveness in the book. She is pretty outspoken and later told Ginny that she never felt that Byron respected Ginny nor showed enough affection.
  • Formerly Fat: Dr. Shreves, Ginny's mother, was as heavy as Ginny in high school and totally slimmed down before college.
  • Grew a Spine: Ginny's journey starts with her buying a plane ticket to Seattle to see a friend and continues with making some big fashion choices, confronting the code of silence in her family, and when she starts a school paper.
  • Hypocrite: Ginny is self-conscious of the way she looks and hates that she's bullied for being fat, but also criticises how others look, such as Sarah with the 'ski-slope nose'.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Virginia is in disbelief when a neighbor mistakes her for her gorgeous and waif-like sister Anais and Byron's friend thought she was another cute college girl hanging on Byron's arm.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Alcohol shows up a lot in this novel, for example, after Byron raped a peer, Mr. Shreaves starts drinking a lot more.
  • Ironic Name: Virginia means "virgin" and the novel starts with Ginny trying to go to second base with Froggy.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: A huge theme in the book, with the "Virgins and Sluts" party as an example.
  • Meaningful Name: Oh so much.
    • Virginia is named for Virginia Woolf, who is known for her introspective works on Feminism. Plus the name means "virgin" which is what her French teacher calls her in front of the class.
    • Her older sister Anais, is named for the bohemian and very unconventional writer Anais Nin, who also is known as a source of Feminism.
    • Byron is named for Lord Byron, who was known for being a ladies man along with being an asshole.
    • Discussed with the school zine. They settle on "Earth Quack" because they are shaking up the status quo of the school and revealing things for what they are.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Ginny lives in a Penthouse with her family and goes to a private school, yet she starves for her Mother's affection and attention.
  • No Ending: The sequel sets up a potential conflict with Ginny and Sebastian dating causing issues for both Annie and Bryon's court cases but then the matter is hastily dealt with in a way that suggests it was never really a problem at all, and the book ends with them going on a date in the next scene.
  • Parents as People: Ginny's mother more so than her father; she's a psychologist for teenagers who is unable to help her own children, has to near starve herself to stay thin as she was Formerly Fat, grew up poor and so embraces being able to flaunt her wealth and struggles when the perfect future she envisioned for her children starts to fall apart. Whenever she's honest and open with Ginny, she reveals that they're more alike than they realise.
  • Parental Favouritism: One of Ginny's biggest issues is that her parents favour her older sister and brother as they have more in common with them. Unlike some examples, Ginny is actually correct.
  • Post-Stress Overeating: Ginny goes off her skimpy weight-loss diet after she learns about Byron raping a girl and starts hitting the junk food hard.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mme. Keifer, the French instructor, she picks favorites and even humiliates Ginny and her boyfriend Froggy.
  • Shout-Out: Both books have them both.
    • Books like The Red Tent, Love In The Time of Cholera, and Americanah are referenced and read by Ginny.
    • The second book references Futurama with Ginny's new boyfriend comparing her to Turanga Leela being that she is voluptuous, intelligent, badass, and purple haired.
    • Stores like Torrid and Strawberry are referenced as hip stores that don't relegate plus sized girls to frumpy clothing like Saks Fifth Avenue.
    • Ani Di Franco is referenced and name-dropped a lot as a young, hip singer who writes about empowerment.
  • Spiritual Successor: Vegan Virgin Valentine focuses on some family friends of the Shreves family (the protagonist's mother used to babysit Ginny's father), the family is even mentioned in one chapter.
  • Stepford Smiler: Ginny's mother is this trope personified and even encourages this after Byron date-raping a girl.
  • Token Minority: This issue is taken when Ginny talks about how most of the students that win "Model Brewster Student" are usually white and thin, but with the school brochures, the MBS is thin and a person of color. Ginny's friend Alyssa Wu calls this type of action out in her article for their school zine.
  • Weight Woe: Ginny has this and eventually tries to get over it while her thin mother dreads getting fat again, and popular girl Brie develops an eating disorder.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Ginny's motivation to lose weight isn't just about losing weight but also about getting her mother's approval and attention. She gets the approval without the weight loss or submitting to what her mom expects only that she hears it when Dr. Shreves is drunk.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Froggy Welsh III, Ginny's sort of boyfriend.