A bullied, bulimic teen searches for self-love through kickboxing and romance.
Adrian tries to stay under the radar at his Canadian high school, dealing with his feelings by secretly binge-eating at home. But when the school bully torments him after a gym class weigh-in, Adrian decides to get fit. He begins kickboxing and meets an ambitious girl named Melody who is attracted to him. However, Adrian is convinced that he won’t deserve Mel’s love until he loses weight. He begins purging, which costs him happiness, energy, and the ability to pursue the activities and relationships that have finally made him feel worthy. By the end, Adrian opens up to Mel about his eating disorder and confronts the bully, but the true climax comes when he reckons with his self-perception. Adrian’s bulimia is sensitively addressed, but a rigid low-carb diet is portrayed as a healthier alternative, possibly triggering readers who struggle with balanced eating. A line indicating that it’s wrong to mock those trying to lose weight misses the point that it’s wrong regardless. Both Adrian and Melody are biracial, and they bond over both pride in their backgrounds and the prejudices they face (Adrian’s parents are both half black and half white, while Melody’s are white and Indian). The bully is white. Adrian is a highly sympathetic protagonist, showing sensitivity and emotional maturity that would outshine that of many adults.
Accessible and engaging, full of honest feeling. (Fiction. 13-18)