This is the first book by Laurie Halse Anderson that I have read, although I have “Speak” on my bookshelf to read too. It was a great book; albeit an uncomfortable, somewhat depressing, and difficult read because of the subject matter. I listened to this on audio book and the audio book was very well done; the reader did a good job of changing her voice for Leah’s thoughts vs. what Leah said, etc.
This book is told from the perspective of Leah. Leah is anorexic and regularly cuts herself. She finds out that her ex-best friend was found dead in a hotel room. The book follows Leah’s mental and physical degeneration as she tries to make unbelievable weight goals; first 95 pounds, then 85 pounds, etc. Leah feels clean, in control, and strong when she is not eating. It also deals with all the external troubles in Leah’s life. Although no one really treats her all that badly, she is lonely because her mother is a very busy heart surgeon and her dad is a famous historian. She now lives with her step-mom Jennifer, her stepsister Emma, and her father.
This book was really well done and really sad. This is not a book to read if you are depressed and it definitely won’t leave you feeling great; although it will leave you a lot to think about. Leah, in no way has a horrible life. She just feels neglected enough by her parents that she starts to spin out of control. She starts thinking that “being the thinnest” is the only thing that can distinguish her. She is stuck between two outstanding parents who want her to both follow their loves; she is tugged into trying to be what everyone else wants her to be and not eating is her way of rebelling. It doesn’t help that her ex-bestfriend was bulimic and introduced Leah to additional ways of avoiding weight gain; using laxatives and diuretics.
Over all the characters in this book were very believable and very heart-breaking to read about. Everyone from Leah herself, to her parents try who to understand what they can do to help her, to her stepsister who is torn between being embarrassed by her sister’s thinness (she tell her classmates Leah has cancer) and loving having a sister, struggles in a very believable way. Anderson does a wonderful job of portraying the world through Leah’s eyes as Leah gets sicker and sicker from starving herself. Leah looses time, starts seeing things, and makes the strangest connections between things as her brain starts to have trouble functioning.
The interesting thing about they book, is that in despite of the fact that I do feel sorry for Leah, she comes off as very selfish. She doesn’t care about anyone around her and all that she is doing to them; she gets lost in her own misery and pain. The only person that she even cares about a little bit is her stepsister Emma.
This is a great book to read if you want understand the minds of teenagers who inflict physical pain to center themselves, find themselves, and deal with emotional pain. It’s a great book to read even if you are older, like me, and need to remember what it was like to be a teenager. I think both teenage boys and girls will come away from a lot to think about from this book too. I remember being pretty ego-centric as a teenager, and this book aptly shows what that can do to the people around you. This book was about way more than eating disorders; it was about having everyone else expecting you to be someone you aren’t, dealing with that pain, and figuring out how to determine who you really are. There is one point in the book where Leah is looking in the mirror and she can’t figure out if she is too fat, too thin, or what she even looks like at all and that is what this book is about.