What do you get when you cross the Virgin Mary with Brooke Shields, add a trash-talking beauty queen wannabe and throw in a couple of talking nipples? One of the most laugh-out-loud books you’ll read all year.
Peter Paddington is 13, overweight, the subject of his classmates’ ridicule, and the victim of too many bad movie-of-the-week storylines. When Peter’s nipples begin speaking to him one day and inform him of their diabolical plan to expose his secret desires to the world, Peter finds himself cornered in a world that seems to have no tolerance for difference.
Peter’s only solace is “The Bedtime Movies” — perfect-world fantasies that lull him to sleep every night. But when the lines between Peter’s fantasy world and his reality begin to blur, no one is safe from the depths of Peter’s imagination — especially Peter himself.
Thirteen-year-old Peter Paddington suffers through a year of eighth grade in this entertaining debut novel, set in Sarnia, Canada, in 1984. In some ways Peter is an average awkward teenager hair sprouting in unexpected places, a lack of friends, curiosity about religion. But in other ways he's different he weighs 204 pounds, and swollen nipples ("two small cherries") have just surfaced on his doughy chest. Soon these nipples take on a life of their own, actually speaking to Peter and giving him unsolicited advice. A vividly drawn dysfunctional family fills out the novel's landscape; most of this dysfunction revolves around food and weight and Peter's menopausal, smothering mother, Beth. Peter's long-suffering father, Henry, works a factory job in Chemical Valley, his thin sister Christine does her best not to associate with her family, his sister Nancy dumps her fat boyfriend to discover her "new" self, and his Uncle Ed is an overweight, closeted homosexual. The fluid, lively narrative is punctuated with a series of "Bedtime Movies," fantasies in which Peter is loved, popular and famous, propelled out of his fat, sad existence. Despite its fantastical twists, the novel hews closely to familiar coming-of-age formulas, but its hapless narrator is a winning hero.