“Promise was like a precious stone, she told me: hypnotising, but after a while the weight of it could sink you.”
When Stevie is admitted against her will to a rehab for her eating disorder, she sees it as nothing more than a temporary setback. Her loving father and the hippie shrink, with all of their good intentions, aren’t enough to take away the fact that there are only 27 days left until the anniversary of Stevie’s older brother’s death. There are only 27 days left until the anniversary of the night she killed him.
There are only 27 days left until she repays that debt with her own life.
I picked this book up because I’m a glutton for punishment, and I really, thoroughly enjoy YA contemporary books about The Tough Issues: abuse, EDs, addictions, pregnancy, etc. I’ve been reading them for a long time, and because of that, I’ve come across my fair share of titles that revolved around disordered eating and the suicidal tendencies that sometimes can accompany the presence of those disorders. That said, this book wasn’t as heavily impacting as I expected it to be.
Don’t get me wrong; the synopsis is very heavy, and it’s a tough topic to breach. We’ve got Stevie, who’s been wrapped up in this eating disorder for some time now, and has these very specific goals for her own suicide. (Note: None of this is a spoiler! These are all things you learn within the first few pages.) To our knowledge, her intended suicide is due to the guilt of killing her own brother the year prior, and the ED is simply a vehicle to get her there.
First of all, right off the bat, the fact that this 17-year-old intends to kill herself by starvation, in three weeks, in an eating disorder rehab… It felt a little unbelievable to me. She’s a very intelligent young woman, and a few times, I found myself wondering how we were expected to believe that this was even a plausibility; it became especially difficult when we very quickly learned that some of the other girls in the rehab had feeding tubes, which made it clear that these counselors and doctors weren’t screwing around.
Second of all, the development in the book just felt a little lacking. We’re left in clear suspense regarding not only the death of her older brother, but also the reason for her mother’s absence, and the bizarre feelings she seems to hold towards another young woman back home in Atlanta. Rather than build up suspense or develop further into her feelings regarding these matters, the narration focuses a very long time on minor things, like Stevie’s closed-off nature towards the doctors, her need to belittle other rehab patients for their recovery, or how desperately she misses alcohol. Things got repetitive fast, and I found myself sometimes skimming when the narrator went onto another tangent about how “pathetic” she found it that one of her roommates was rounding out and becoming healthy once more.
Obviously, this is only one reader’s opinions on Stevie’s behavior, and though I am a survivor of disordered eating, everyone’s experience is certainly not the same. That said, it just didn’t make for a particularly insightful read, and I also found that it could be tremendously triggering for anyone who is on the upswing of an ED recovery.
By the book’s end, I just felt like there were more unrealistic turns, one right after another, and the ending itself was incredibly predictable but also incredibly unlikely. SPOILER: Stevie enters the rehab with plans to stay 60+ days, but less than a month into her time there, her father shows up to start the “graduation” process early. Seriously?! People don’t recover from these sorts of things that magically, and to imply that all she needed was a new point of view feels extremely belittling of the monster that is disordered eating. END SPOILER