4 out of 4 stars
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Eating Bull is a psychological thriller by Carrie Rubin. The story centers on Jeremy Barton, an obese teenager whose nickname is the title of the book. He lives in a rundown neighborhood with his overweight, single mother and his fat-shaming grandfather. Due to his weight, Jeremy has various problems like being at risk for diabetes and being bullied at school. His mother takes him to a weight management clinic where he meets with an exercise physiologist, a nutritionist, and a psychologist. Most importantly, he encounters a public health nurse named Sue who asks Jeremy and his mom to help her in suing the food industry. In the background of Jeremy managing his weight and pursuing the lawsuit, there is a serial killer named Darwin who specifically targets obese people.
Told in the third person, the story alternates between the perspectives of Jeremy, Sue, and Darwin. Each chapter heading clearly indicates which character will be at the forefront, and the characters’ italicized thoughts are shown throughout the book. This is especially interesting when it comes to the conversations Darwin has with the Voice inside his head. The reader knows that the storylines will eventually converge. It’s an entertaining and thought-provoking ride to get to that point. There is a great buildup to the ending with some intriguing twists thrown in that add meaningful depth to the characters and provide substantial obstacles to the plot. The story moves at an excellent pace, tackling important issues from different viewpoints that are deeply rooted in the characters’ past experiences. As such, the reader is provided with a thorough understanding of their present motivations.
The reader is persuasively led to feel sympathy for Jeremy’s plight, especially when he describes not being able to control himself around food. It’s more like the food controls him. While he was certainly a relatable character, I felt that Sue and Darwin were far more interesting characters. Of course, being a serial killer automatically makes Darwin interesting, but the author does an exceptional job in crafting him in a compelling way. He goes to extreme lengths to keep his body fit and is pretty OCD when it comes to keeping himself clean. The Voice chooses his victims for him, all a part of its master plan. Sue has suffered from her own weight problems and takes it upon herself to make a difference. People complain about and ridicule America’s obesity, but she actually wants to do something to fix the problem at whatever cost.
Equally as interesting as the characters is the multifaceted social issue that they bring attention to. Sue, in particular, makes many excellent points throughout the book. She believes that the individual isn’t wholly to blame for being overweight, though others strongly feel that people make the choice to be fat. While Sue’s ambitions seem broad, she exercises convincing specificity, like the manipulation of specific ingredients to make people addicted to junk food.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It had all the right elements for an enjoyable read: great writing, great plot, and great characters. There is some cussing in addition to graphic violence (there is a serial killer, after all). So if those things would bother you, then this might not be the book for you. However, if the combination of weight problems and a string of murders piques your interest, then you should give this book a try.
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