Elizabeth is proud of the forty pounds she’s lost; after a lifetime of seeking her figure-obsessed mother’s approval and failing to find it, she feels like she’s finally what her mother has always wanted – even if she’s not what her ex-boyfriend wants anymore. The ride is only beginning, when Elizabeth is packed up and sent off to a treatment center for girls with eating disorders. At the center, she must learn to come to terms with not only her own ghosts, but those of her beloved mother, as well. Things aren’t all bad, though – Elizabeth finds new friends, comfort in her therapist, and most unexpected of all, packages from a secret admirer.
As someone who has struggled most of my life with disordered eating, I am a total sucker for contemporaries about EDs. They can be triggering when done poorly, but when done well, these books can be incredibly cathartic for me, so when I read the synopsis on this book, I knew it was right up my alley.
WHAT I LIKED ➳➳
This book offers an incredibly realistic view of EDs. It starts off by explaining how people suffering from anorexia can develop lanugo, a downy coating of hair on their body, and I was hooked from that moment because it told me that Ballard was willing to face the side of EDs that most authors won’t touch, or don’t know about. It continues to tackle anorexia and other EDs in a very straightforward and honest method, which I appreciated SO much.
The narrator is likable, and her thought processes made sense to me. I was able to relate to her, and I liked that she didn’t insist on shutting everyone out and being a stereotypical “mean girl” MC like we see so often in books about ED treatment.
The side characters are complex and enjoyable, and I felt real, legitimate empathy for some of them. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s mother is awful but pitiable, and I found myself conflicted on my feelings for her (in a good way!); on the one hand, she was horrible to her daughter, but on the other hand, she was struggling as well, and I couldn’t discount that.
WHAT I DISLIKED ➳➳
The secret admirer plot felt like an afterthought, because even though it’s mentioned in the synopsis, I didn’t feel like it was really the forefront of the story? I also gathered that it was supposed to feel like this big puzzle with a surprise ending, but it really just wasn’t fleshed out enough for me to care very strongly about it, so I didn’t feel much of anything either way when the big reveal happened.
FINAL VERDICT ➳➳
All in all, this book wasn’t the most extraordinary YA contemporary I’d ever picked up, but it was my favorite ED-related book that I’ve read, so 4/5 stars feels like a really fair rating to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA contemporaries about tough topics like EDs and mental illness, but I would warn caution to anyone who may be triggered by in-depth conversations regarding disordered eating, body dysmorphia, parental verbal abuse, or mental illness.
Thank you so much to Alexandra Ballard and the lovely folks at Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the ARC! My thoughts in this review are entirely my own.