Paperweight by Meg Haston
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. 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.
Actual rating: 3.5
This book was good. I have very few complaints. The main character was believable. The author’s depiction of anorexia nervosa was realistic and clearly well-researched, with a great deal of sensitivity to the illness. For me, the reason for a 3 is just that it didn’t click with me emotionally. It’s just a matter of book chemistry, with no disrespect to the book.
This book is about a young woman who is committed to a treatment facility because she suffers from anorexia nervosa. An eating disorder that can and often kills its sufferers.Stevie doesn’t care about dying, in fact, she plans on it.
“Stevie,” she says again. “Let me assure you that you do, in fact, need to be here. You are incredibly malnourished. If you don’t get intensive treatment right now, you are going to die. My guess is that you may even want to die.”
I will find a way out of here, I tell myself. Whatever I have to do to make it home in time to die. I will not betray Josh again. I will not take a single breath on the one-year anniversary of the night I killed my brother.
Any book about a mental illness has the duty to portray that illness faithfully, and I felt that this book did just that. I feel like it realisticly portrays the triggering incidents that leads to Stevie’s anorexia without making it overblown. I liked “sitting in” on her therapy sessions. Stevie’s reactions to it is believable, and I liked the subtle insinuation into our beliefs of the illness.
I know what she’s asking before she knows it. She wants to know if someone, maybe a “Very Bad Man,” touched me. That’s the only possible explanation. Something unspeakable must have happened for me to turn out this way.
“He’s there,” I say, because nothing else comes. No one ever touched me. No man, anyway. But maybe she’s right; maybe I do need a reason. Some glittering thing I can unveil for the crowd—see, look!—so they can make sense of this insanity. Ahhh, they will say, now we understand.
But the reasons behind Stevie’s behavior, why she became this way, is very real.
Look at yourself.
The girl in the mirror was too much and not enough. Her lines were soft, curved as though they had buckled under the pressure of being. Weak, her flesh.
It was my fault her absence hurt the way it did. My body was powerless to stop the pain. I turned and slapped my ass, staring in horror at the undulating excess. Punched my stomach, kneaded the flesh there. Too much, all of it. No wonder my mother chose to leave. I took up so much space; she couldn’t breathe! I crushed my beautiful mama with the weight of my very existence.
The thing is, these illnesses do have a trigger. One does not wake up one day and start hating themselves. Anyone with a poor body image will understand, there’s got to be an event, a careless phrase, a trigger for all of this to start. It doesn’t even have to be about losing weight. Anorexia is about control. Control is power. Restricting food from a body starving for it is the ultimate act of control. For someone who feels helpless, anorexia is a last resort, often literally.
I felt that Stevie’s feelings and her perverse pride in her own thinness was so well-done. When we look at someone with anorexia, bones exposed, skin dry and colorless from malnutrition, we see someone sick, someone to pity. Stevie’s feeling towards her own anorexia is pride to the point where she sinks into despair at the thought that she “only” has bulimia…that she’s not thin enough to be categorized as anorexic.
It seems that bulimia nervosa would be a better diagnostic fit, given that you are not currently below eighty-five percent of your ideal body weight.”
Absurdity. Instantly, the laughter rises up in me and begins to consume. It runs its tongue down my spine, grazes my neck. Scrapes the flesh from my ribs and suddenly, my sides ache.
I jerk away. The back of my hand makes a sick slapping sound as it meets her cheek. She stumbles back. Now the rest of them are springing forward. I turn and break through the circle, stumbling toward the door.
Bulimia! A slur, when I’ve worked so hard to become what I am.
The only thing that really bothers me about this book is that the secret is kept hidden for so long. I have never been a fan of the big reveal. Otherwise, this was a good book. It focuses on the main character, her emotional state, and her recovery. There is no unnecessary romance. It’s just a book about a broken girl.