Let's begin by discussing the writing style. It is not written as a collection of poems, but the words have such a poetic feel that the story floats along like a dream. The emotion it renders immediately sucked me into the story. I was one of the characters. I screamed aloud when Lia continued her downward spiral into the vacuum of anorexia. (Ask my husband. He often would look at me and say, "What?!" when I started talking to the characters.)
The author uses strike throughs many times to show what Lia is really thinking. She calls her mother (Strike through) --mom-- Dr. Marrigan, showing the lack of real relationship between the two. (Sorry, I can't figure out how to actually strike through on this blog.) This device is used to show her true feelings about food as well. (Pg 5)(Strike through.)" --Because I can't let myself want them-- because I don't need a muffin (410), I don't want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag."
I was hooked at the use of this device because of how accurately it portrayed the struggle of the character. I didn't realize how badly anorexics wanted to eat, but Anderson's portrayal made that very clear. It's not the desire to eat that's the problem. It's the control over one aspect of life when everything else seems so out of control.
(pg 121) Lia brings pizza to Elijah. "He asks, "Want some?"
(Strike through)"--One bit, please, and then another and another, crust and cheese sausage sauce another and another--empty is strong and invincible. "I already ate.""
All I can say to that is, WOW!
Never before have I known what it was like to be a character as much as I did with Lia. I was torn, half the time yelling, "Eat, Lia. Eat something, please," and the other half understanding her need to be thin, so much so that she deceives those around her by sewing quarters into her bathrobe when her stepmother weighs her. Don't we all deceive others about our weight? Maybe not to the extreme, but I know I only buy clothes that show off my best features and hide my worst ones. I know that I wear certain outfits because they make me look thin even when I don't feel thin. I've never known a single woman that didn't some time or another struggle with or worry about her weight. I've experienced the yo-yo dieting and wanted more than anything to be skinny. We can all relate. Yet, what is it that pushes some people to the extreme?
It started for Lia and her friend Cassie in high school when they made a pact to be the thinnest girls in the school. The catalyst for the disease in this case was the constant pressures of school and friends. She's put into a hospital, gets a little better and is released. However, after her friend Cassie's death from bulemia, Lia relapses into anorexia again. Again she struggles with self image on top of not knowing how to grieve her friend's passing. The only thing that she feels she can control is her eating, which to my understanding, is often the case in eating disorders. Life seems so horribly out of control, so they control the only thing they can.
Honestly, this book opened my eyes a little. Being a mother, I want more than anything for my daughter (and son) to be healthy, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. This novel has set my mind to thinking about what I can do to ensure proper body image, to build self confidence, to allow my children to have some amount of control in their lives so that they don't feel the need to step into the extreme. It's not just our daughters that we need to train. It's all those young women with whom we have contact, the young girls whose mothers may not know any better. So I ask, how are you doing at portraying a positive self image? How are you doing at encouraging young women to make good choices with their bodies? How are you doing at feeling good about yourself?
What can we do to help those young people around us from falling prey to diseases of the mind that constantly tell them they aren't good enough? I know one thing I'm going to do. Excuse me while I walk outside and tell my daughter how much I love her, how beautiful she is on the inside and outside, and how important she is to me.
Will you do the same?