I know I've said recently that books I've read have been emotional, but this was a roller coaster.
Plot: Maddie is worried about her weight after visiting the doctor. She is fifteen when she starts to "diet" and soon is being both praised and punished for her rapid weight loss. Feeling as if no one understands her, she turns to the internet for help. Website after website list the ways one can diet and quickly loose weight, but only one lets her chat about it. Almost two years pass before Maddie's family and friends make her get help for her eating disorder and Maddie ends up in a rehab clinic. The people she meets here help her realize that she's more then just her shadow.
I could not put this book down. It left me needing a few deep breaths and a little shaky. It's listed as being semi-biographical, as the author herself has dealt with eating disorders.
Okay, this really hit home. I've admitted in the past that at one point I suffered from Bulimia and have had issues with my weight my whole life. I only publicly talked about it in the last few years, but I also grew up in a time when internet was not available everywhere at all hours. This novel uses the internet as a co-star, showing that just because the information and so called support is at your fingertips, does not mean it's good advice.
The group of girls Maddie ends up finding are all under 90 pounds and still thinking they are fat.
One scene had me caught between anger and tears, when Maddie is shopping for jeans with her mother and the sales lady keeps telling her how thin she looks.
Given that the novel is seen mostly through the eyes of a teenager suffering from the disorder, there are moments when it almost seems pro-disorder, ALMOST but not completely. Then it switches gears very quickly as you get moments of the story as seen through the eyes of the rest of the characters and it is clearly anti-.
thinandbeautiful.com is a hard pill to swallow, as it should be. This is not a pretty topic and it is laid out very vividly in all of it's harshness. I have to give a big nod to the fact the author did not limit her research to just women having this disorder, men fall victim to this as well. Lots of men. I think she made a brave and smart move adding a male character who not only had the disorder, but was aware of it and seeking help.
The fact Maddie has fallen into paranoia over her life shows a level of normalness that all teenagers no matter if they are suffering from an illness or not, go through was another sub-plot that added extra texture to the story. Feeling of betrayal, confusion, low self esteem, and simply being misunderstood flows through the entire novel with a serpentine grace that manages to weave you up inside itself.
The journey we are taken on with Maddie and her Girls Without Shadows, is a bumpy one that points the finger where it belongs, on the individual and the media in a joint effort to expose the rawness of the illness. Not enough is ever said on the topic of eating disorders and this novel serves up a cold mirrored image that is needed.
This is a book I feel needs to be standard reading in high school.