In an autobiographical novel, Jennifer spends two months at a mental hospital in Syracuse, New York, undergoing treatment for her eating disorder.
The story begins when Jennifer asks her parents to take her to the hospital. Though skeptical, her mother assents, and soon Jennifer is a resident in the Eating Disorders Unit at the Samuel Tuke Center. Immediately, Jennifer is thrust into a world of humiliating suspicion (a particularly nasty nurse is certain that Jennifer is manipulating her weigh-in results), complex social hierarchies (as a bulimarexic, Jennifer falls somewhere between anorexics and overeaters), and regimented treatment. Treatment-plan documents appear interspersed with the text, which begins as a verse novel and abruptly shifts into prose—and from a third- to a first-person narrator—when Jennifer enters her second of three treatment stages. The 1980s setting is vividly realized, clear not only from the dates in each chapter heading, but from well-chosen details—the cigarette-smoke–filled EDU lounge, the pop-music enthusiasm Jennifer shares with her favorite nurse, Chuck. Some storylines begin or end abruptly, however, and some details come seemingly out of nowhere. Jennifer is relieved midway through the book, for example, to have a new roommate who understands how much she misses a dog she's barely mentioned in the preceding pages.
Despite occasional unevenness, a powerful story of healing and self-acceptance. (Historical fiction. 12-18)