Release date: July 7, 2015
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
When you think of eating disorders, what comes to mind is a skinny girl who has body image issues, refusing to eat because she feels good being thin. But body image issues don’t just pop out of nowhere, and sometimes they have nothing to do with standards of beauty. In this story, the main character, Stevie, doesn’t develop an eating disorder because she felt she was fat – it started out somewhat in that way, morphing into blaming the rejection from her mother onto something lacking within herself, and exacerbated by guilt from surviving an accident in which her brother dies.
For Stevie, not eating is a path she choose so that she can join her brother on the anniversary of his death. She feels guilty for being alive when he is dead, more so, because she feels responsible for causing his death. So when she arrives to therapy, she refuses treatment. She defies the rules, distrusts her therapist, and is dead set on her plan (excuse the pun). But when she realizes she won’t be able to make it, she becomes unsure. She has been fighting herself since a year, and now she can’t go any further, so she starts towards recovery. Delivered in a honest first perspective, her struggle from wanting to die, from feeling like a toxic person, to finally accepting her brother’s death and moving on, is heart-wrenching and really sad. But the biggest turnaround for her has to be when she initially hates her roommate for being everything she was, to finally being concerned for her, bonding with her, and befriending the other girls in therapy. She finally starts living for herself, than dying for her brother.
The writing is evocative, and brings out all of Stevie’s pain, and apathy to the front. It is quite real, the feelings she has, the confusion she is going through; even her initial assessment of the system – feeling she has the most power because she is the closest to death. It’s all very raw, and this book is definitely not for a light read. But it is real, and that’s what that matters.
Received a free galley from Harper Teen via Edelweiss; this does not influence my opinions or review.