There will be spoilers for the end of the novel in this review.
So with this novel, I’m continuing my education as to contemporary novels. Laurie Halse Anderson had the longest line by far at ALA in Chicago, and it seems everyone loves her books. I thought I’d love this one too, in the beginning, but that ended up not being so. Disclaimer: I have never had an eating disorder, nor do I know anyone who has, at least not personally. And at first, I sympathized with Lia, caught in a storm of self-hatred, cut off from her family and her best friend. And in the case of the latter, Lia is cut off forever, because Cassie is dead, done in by bulimia. Lia is anorexic and somewhat high and mighty about her ability to abstain from food, while Cassie chose to binge and purge. At the beginning of this novel, Lia is just out of recovery, but she is not recovered. She is living with her permissive father and his new frazzled wife. She constantly considers the calories in things she’s eating and sometimes gives pretty gross detail to the distortions she’s seeing in food and in her body. Lia does a lot of describing what it was like before her disorder, how her friendship with Cassie progressed then ended, and how Lia’s relationship with her parents deteriorated. The beginning hooked me, and I thought Anderson did a good job presenting the material.
After that, though, I started to get tired of the writing style. It’s almost lyrical sometimes, kind of poetic, and that’s generally not for me. I skimmed near the end due to wordiness. I was also very frustrated because being in Lia’s head made it harder and harder to sympathize with her. In the end, she considers everyone the enemy, is wasting away, and no one even notices. Her father failed really badly here. I found myself really pissed at him throughout the novel and identifying more with her mother. The methods in this book of trying to force Lia to eat seemed suspect too. Yelling at her and shoving food in her face is almost guaranteed to not help, and it doesn’t. Lia only gets worse. There is also a vague romantic storyline that I won’t even detail because I found it extraneous and forced. In the end, it means nothing anyway. And in the end, Lia is carted off again, not because she recognizes that she has a real problem, but because she almost bled out in front of her stepsister. Any time a person is forced to better themselves for the sake of others, it does not work. You have to recognize your problem and fix it because you want to, otherwise you will rationalize yourself right back into your problem. I might not know eating disorders, but I know addiction, and Lia’s thought processes were similar.
I had a hard time identifying with and sympathizing with Lia, and this affected my enjoyment of the book. I wish we’d been in Cassie’s head, who seemed more interesting, personality-wise. I thought the basis of Lia’s recovery was shaky at best. However, I do think this is a defining novel, because at least someone is talking about it, and at least people living with ED have voices in the mainstream, even if those voices are facilitated by healthy authors. (less)
Remember how I hate contemporary, guys? You know how I won’t read it because I hate shmoopy romance and all cont...moreOriginally published at yAdult Review.
Remember how I hate contemporary, guys? You know how I won’t read it because I hate shmoopy romance and all contemporary has shmoopy romance? I WAS WRONG. I’ve been on a tear reading contemporary novels, and this is the latest in a series of successes. Now, this involves a little suspension of disbelief, since being a DJ isn’t something you can usually just do without learning software and the like. Elise’s redemption was a little too cutesy and tied up too nicely, but this one is so worth your while for Elise’s journey alone. Elise has never had a real friend in her life. She’s a little weird, very smart, and just kind of socially awkward. She thinks she’s into things that others her age aren’t, but really she’s been beaten down by relentless bullying (something I can relate to). I’ve started reading more novels about bullying and serious issues because I relate to them and it’s so important for kids to know they aren’t alone.
Elise has loving parents, but her mother has started a new family, so she’s busy, and Elise has never been a rule breaker. Her parents don’t think she needs watching…until she tries to kill herself. (And even that is sort of an accident.) To get away, Elise starts wandering at night and discovers the thing that saves her life: music. DJing, more specifically. Vicky, Pippa, and Char are so real it hurts. Pippa is the kind of girl who believes she can change men, one of those girls who loses interest when she finally attracts a guy, and she’s met her match in Char. Char doesn’t care and won’t be her boyfriend, so when Pippa is sent away, Elise thinks it’s okay to start messing around with Char. She doesn’t know the social rules yet, but she learns, and what I really liked is that Char didn’t end up saving Elise or being her savior. He’s just a guy.
The things Elise learns along the way are so important, and the relationship she has with her parents is equally heartbreaking and heartwarming. They don’t really know the depths of the bullying Elise faces day to day until later in the book. Things work out for Elise, and I think everyone should read this book if they have time and inclination. Sales has a really accessible writing style, and the story never feels boring or slow. I liked this one a lot, and I’d definitely be interested in more stories from Sales.(less)