Book Review: Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot


The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Release Date: February 28, 2017

A couple disclaimers before I get started. Jessica originally agreed to write an honest review of this book in exchange for an advanced copy. As someone in recovery for ED, she jumped on the chance to review a new book with positive representation, especially about a relatively unknown ED. However, before she received the book she read this anonymous review by another ED survivor. We talked about it and decided it might be too triggering for her to read it, so we had the book sent to me instead. Full disclosure, I do not have an eating disorder but I am familiar with Jess’s story and one of my best friends from high school almost died because of her struggle with her ED.

Okay, so I slept on it before writing this review and I’m still angry but I’ll try to keep the yelling out. First things first, I am not a fan of second person narration. While overall it was a quick read, it was irritating trying to get through it. Second, Pea spends this entire book putting down other girls, and even gets this idea reinforced from her boyfriend who says, “Maybe that’s what I expect girls to do, pick girlie colors, but you’re different,” and, later on, the quintessential quote, “You’re not like other girls.” Excuse me while I go scream for eternity that THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH OTHER GIRLS.

And that’s just what I thought was disappointing about this book. But Sad Perfect is more than just disappointing, it’s damaging on so many levels. When Pea first gets her diagnosis of ARFID she immediately starts one on one and group sessions of therapy. There’s not much focus on either of these things as part of her recovery. The things we do see of group therapy are her continued thoughts of otherness. She repeatedly mentions that her ED is different than the other girls (only girls, because obviously only white girls can have ED) and therefore somehow worse. This opinion does not change by the end of the book.

While she does continue therapy throughout the book, it seems that the only real help she gets is from her boyfriend whom she met in the very first chapter. She decides that he helps her so much that she stops taking her anti-depressants. So when they get into a fight, she starts self harming with a safety pin (way to glorify that by putting it on the cover of the book, btw). While self-harm can coexist with ED and other mental illnesses, her self-harm was literally a plot device to get her admitted to a hospital on suicide watch, where Elliot vilifies almost all hospital staff and makes gross stereotypes of the people that “need” to be there.

Pea’s stay in the hospital was her catalyst for wanting to get better and taking responsibility for her “monster.” She talks at length about how she created this monster and that really the monster is her and that her ED is her fault. She then goes on to say that she doesn’t deserve to be in the hospital when she has her family and Ben (who she has known for approximately 10 seconds) who love her. But these stereotypically low-income people need to be in the hospital because they don’t have anyone who loves them. There were multiple times that I wanted to throw this book, but during her whole hospital stay I had to physically restrain myself from actually doing so.

At the end of the book, we’re left with the message that Pea is still different from everyone else and that the power of a boy loving you will make you want to get better. I understand that Elliot’s daughter suffers from ARFID and she wanted to shed light on what her daughter and her family went through. However, it’s glaringly obvious that she has no knowledge whatsoever about any other ED and doesn’t care to.

For a better look at ED, check out Jessica’s review of Elena, Vanishing. And for more information about eating disorders and treatment visit the National Eating Disorder Association.

If I could give this zero bards, I would, but I guess I’ll settle for one.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: February 28, 2017

For sixteen-year-old Pea, eating has always been difficult. Some people might call her a picky eater, but she knows it’s more than that, and it’s getting worse. And now there’s a monster raging inside of her, one that controls more than just her eating disorder. The monster is growing, and causing anxiety, depression, and dangerous thoughts.

When Pea meets Ben and they fall crazy-mad in love, she tries to keep the monster hidden. But the monster wants out, and as much as she tries, she can’t pretend that the bad in her doesn’t exist. Unable to control herself, a chain of events thrusts Pea into a situation she’d never imagine she’d find herself in.

With the help of Ben, her family, and her best friend, Pea must find the inner strength to understand that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she’s tired of being loyal to people who don’t appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom.

Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.

During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

thetroubleinme

Release Date: September 1, 2015

This fierce black comedy from the master of turning his own true story into semi-fictional gold charts the summer at age fourteen that his alter-ego’s life starts to go off the rails. In his family’s new rental home on a down-at-the heels street in sun-beaten Miami—with dog-eating alligators in the canal out back, a dangerously attractive girl across the road, and the unhinged Pagoda family next door—teen Jack is adrift, losing a sense of who he is and what he’s all about. Which is why he ends up trying to morph himself into someone he’s not, that someone being sixteen-year-old Gary Pagoda, a.k.a. Scary Gary, just back from juvie for car theft. Following Gary’s lead that first time is just the start of Jack’s series of bad decisions. It goes shockingly, hilariously downhill from there.

Book Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete’s nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she’s falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up–and the troubled beauty trapped between them.

Release Date: May 13, 2014

I went back to double check if the synopsis on Goodreads mentioned that this story was a modern retelling of Peter Pan.  However, it didn’t, so I’m going to assume that this story was supposed to stealthily be a retelling rather than an acknowledged retelling like A.G. Howard’s Splintered.  Second Star did not pull off the whole “stealthy” thing.

I constantly felt like I was being beaten over the head with the allegories from J.M. Barrie’s story and Sheinmel’s.  Not only were there three siblings named Wendy, John, and Michael Darling, but they had a dog named Nana, there was the good guy named Pete, and a bad guy, representing Hook, named Jas.

Instead of being able to fly with pixie dust, Sheinmel used the inevitable simile of surfing feeling like flying.  Pete, Belle (I see what you did there), and Jas are obessed with surfing and flying.  They are all runaways, representing the lost boys, and pixie dust is represented as a highly addictive drug that also helps people “fly” and escape the real world (or adulthood).

There are just so many things that were eye-roll inducing that it was hard to see Second Star as anything of individual merit, because the entire story had very little original ideas. They visit a place called the Jolly Roger, Wendy leaves through her window, etc.  The only thing that I really liked is that the story stayed focused on Wendy’s journey and didn’t get wrapped up in too much detail with John and Michael.

Then of course, it was all a “dream.” Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy a whole lot of this novel because of the lazy interpretation of Peter Pan.  If you aren’t too upset by unoriginal retellings, then this might be for you.

2 Bards.

twobards

 

This novel was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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