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FICTION

The New David Espinoza

HarperTeen. Feb. 2020. 336p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062489883.
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Gr 9 Up–Muscle dysmorphia is a little-discussed type of body dysmorphia that strikes mostly men and boys who try to become as buff as possible. It grips David Espinoza, a self-described “stick figure,” who commits to a summer of intense bodybuilding after bully Ricky sucker punches him, posts the video, and kids start calling David “Bitchslap.” At the gym, a muscle man named Alpha, who’s competing to win the Mr. Florida title, speeds his transformation with steroids, and soon his young admirer is hooked as well. The first thing to go is David’s social life. Formerly a good kid who didn’t need to be told what to do, he sacrifices family and friendships and begins to lie. Graphic descriptions of shooting up will sober any reader who romanticizes extreme weight training, as will the other symptoms of David’s addiction: obsessing over an all-protein diet, checking the size of his biceps with a tape measure, and losing his temper unexpectedly. His drug use tests the love of his little sister and his father, a Mexican immigrant who must bear witness as David cuts family ties to move in with Alpha. It also masks the warning signs of his idol’s downfall, whose inevitable fate provides the impetus for David’s turnaround.
VERDICT A much-needed novel about steroid addiction from the point of view of a high school boy who’s the victim of bullying.

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