Rosemary Goode lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where her mother owns the busiest beauty shop in town. Her life is pretty routine: she goes to high school, works in her mother’s shop, and spends time on her own, but she doesn’t have friends to hang out with. Rosie is also a binge eater, sometimes eating huge amounts of food. Her crisis comes over Christmas break when she gains quite a bit of weight and can no longer fit in her largest clothes.
Rosie decides something has to be done, and she begins a liquid diet of weight-loss drinks to help her shed some pounds. But real change doesn’t come for Rosie until she starts to see herself as something more than a fat girl, the one the popular girls tease and call artichoke.
For the first time Rosie has a friend, Kay-Kay who is pretty and slim and athletic, and she hopes to have a boyfriend, cute Kyle Cox who is a super athlete. Slowly she begins to change her relationship with food, and all the other relationships in her life begin to change as well.
Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee is about more than a high school girl trying to lose weight. The beauty shop scenes are reminiscent of Steel Magnolias, where everyone’s problems can be solved while they get their hair and nails done. There’s also an interesting mother-daughter dynamic. Rosie’s mother got pregnant in high school, and she raised her daughter on her own. Rose Warren (Rosie’s mother) has always had to be so strong, that she often forgot to let her daughter see any weakness. When she’s diagnosed with lymphoma and starts to undergo treatment, she finds she must let her daughter into her inner life more than before.
I recommend Artichoke’s Heart for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school. Issues to talk about include eating disorders, self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, family dynamics, and dating. The book provides no easy answers, which is why it should be able to generate great discussions.