Summary: Since Derek’s mother left his father, life has been a challenge. Uninterested in school, Derek drops out to get a job instead, but living with his father alone is only made bearable with the support of his best friend Gabi, and his online boyfriend, Ethan. When Ethan asks for a picture though, Derek sends one from before his substantial weight gain, thinking it won’t matter because Ethan will never know the difference. Ethan has plans to come to a wedding in town and meet Derek while he is there, and Derek must decide whether to come clean about his appearance for the sake of their relationship. Inspiration and courage come from a developing friendship at his new job as a caretaker, and Derek is finally able to be more honest with the people in his life.
Number of Pages: 106
Age Range: 14-16
Review: Who would have thought such a small book could have so much heart?
Right from the start, author Robin Stevenson drew me into her story and made me care about the characters. Starting a new job in a care facility, Derek is a strong young man with a gentle spirit who learns how to take care of physical needs but intuitively seems to know how to attend to his clients’ emotional needs.
And when he meets Aaliyah, a woman far too young to be in a nursing home, they connect. It’s like they recognize each other, and as a result despite not knowing each other for very long, they are perfect to be the agitators for change in each other’s lives. For Aaliyah, it’s about being encouraged not to shut out the love of her life just because her body is working differently now. And for Derek, it’s about trusting Ethan enough to be honest about his physical appearance.
I loved their connection, but I also loved Stevenson’s demonstration that sometimes the people who change our lives the most are those who only make a brief appearance in it.
Despite the fact he is only known through his emails, I also quite liked Ethan. His email at the end was wonderful, and I felt certain and happy that he and Derek would make an amazing couple when they finally meet in person. Best friend Gabi and her family are also very supportive characters, and were there for Derek when he needed them most.
Big Guy is a lovely choice for reluctant readers, and one I would highly recommend.
“I miss her like hell, but I half hope she doesn’t come back. At least one of us got away.” – Derek talking about his mother leaving from Big Guy by Robin Stevenson, page 2
“Francine warned me that some of the residents could be difficult. Just stay calm, she said. Talk slowly. Be aware that you may have to repeat the same information several times.
Repeating that I’m new doesn’t seem like a good idea.” – Derek reflecting on his job from Big Guy by Robin Stevenson, page 10
“‘Excuse me,’ I say. ‘I don’t think you get to call me a coward. Not after you just dumped your boyfriend for the same reason.’
Her eyes are daggers. ‘It’s not the same,’ she says, spitting the words out.
‘Your body’s not perfect. Neither is mine. So what’s the difference? If I’m a coward, so are you.’
‘You don’t understand anything,’ she says.
Implusively, I put my hand on her arm. ‘Maybe I understand more than you think.’
Aaliyah stares at me for a long minute, and I can see her dark eyes starting to shine with tears. She blinks them away and puts her hand over mine.
‘Maybe you do,’ she says, so softly that I have to lean close to hear her. ‘Maybe we’re both cowards.'” – Conversation between Derek and Aaliyah about being a coward from Big Guy by Robin Stevenson, page 80