Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.
A dark and emotional book about a girl struggling with an eating disorder, I thought this was such an important story that all young girls need to read. It was confronting and made me feel uncomfortable (and ugly-cry) at times, but I’m so glad this book is out there in the world because not many people talk about eating disorders.
I was first interested in this book because of the cover (the hardback version is beautiful with and without the jacket) but when I read the description, I was even more interested because of my background in psychology. There are more and more YA books about depression and suicide now and that’s really great to see, but there are definitely not enough books about eating disorders. Anorexia, bulimia and the other types of eating disorders aren’t really seen as much of a problem, and sometimes are even glorified. So I think this book gave a great perspective on the issue. Meg Haston actually started writing this novel when she was at a treatment centre for her eating disorder.
I thought the story and the writing were good but I didn’t love it. There are lots of flashbacks incorporated into the story, which I didn’t love but didn’t hate either. These flashbacks were formatted in the same way as the rest of the book, which annoyed me a little bit, but it was obvious each time that it was a scene from the past. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the story of Stevie’s past because I felt that it was a bit dramatic at times – mother abandons the family, brother is dead, she has no true friends, and therefore eating disorder. Having said that, I did like that the author made it clear that some of the other girls at the treatment centre didn’t have tragic pasts or dysfunctional families. Because anybody can have an eating disorder and not only those who come from a certain background. Even though I didn’t like the story of Stevie’s past, I did like all the events that happened in the treatment centre. They were very realistic and incorporated a lot of great information about eating disorders and the treatment of them.
On to the characters… I wasn’t a huge fan of Stevie, which was also a reason why I didn’t connect with the story as much as I thought I would and would have liked to. It’s hard to fall in love with a story when the protagonist isn’t very likeable. I did warm to her a little bit towards the end but for most of the story her character just didn’t sit well with me. For more than half of the book, she acts quite superior and puts down other girls who aren’t as skinny and close to death as she is (she does this all in her thoughts but it was still quite disturbing to me). She thought other girls were being arrogant when they said they were so sick that they passed out, and she looked up to girls who had a feeding tube because they weren’t able to keep themselves alive with real food. She also treated bulimia as if it’s not a serious and life-threatening condition. I can appreciate the fact that she was sick, and had some unhealthy beliefs and thought patterns but it just really put me off that she wasn’t able to understand that other people aren’t aiming to literally starve themselves to death. She just generalised her wants and beliefs and expected people to think the same way, and for a big part of the book I felt little compassion for her (which made me feel like the worst person in the world).
We see so much development in her though that I think it redeemed her character. There were so many moments in her journey that made me tear up. I loved seeing her make friends and take care of others. I liked all of the side characters from the treatment centre and they really made me root for them. There was also a character called Jenna and that made me so happy because it’s very rare for me to see my name in a book (and when I do, she’s usually the bitchy girl who steals the protagonist’s boyfriend).
Overall, I thought this book was great. It’s set in a very specific location (New Mexico) but I could this story being set anywhere in the world, which is why I think it’s so important for books like this to be out there. The characters in this book were so real and are relatable to all young girls (and boys) who are currently living in a society that promotes the thin ideal and poor body image. This is a story that I think all readers could learn something from, either about themselves or about eating disorders.