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by John Schu

Pub Date: March 19th, 2024
ISBN: 9781536229097
Publisher: Candlewick

This coming-of-age novel in verse depicts one boy’s harrowing experiences with his eating disorder in the late 1990s.

Jake Stacey loves rollerblading, Emily Dickinson, Broadway shows, and his grandmother, but he’s not well. Jake has been starving himself since seventh grade—and concerned adults in his life have caught on. They admit Jake against his will to an inpatient program, where he’s treated for anorexia nervosa, depression, and OCD. Jake’s striking first-person voice and the ups and downs of his emotional journey toward healing are centered through a variety of poetic forms and styles, as well as journal entries and confessions Jake makes to an angel statue at a park. Jake experiences grief, gets a feeding tube, confronts horrifying memories of bullying, learns to talk back to “the Voice” of his disorder, befriends another patient, and embraces known and emerging parts of himself without over-explanation or exoticization. The emphasis on internal contradictions and the carefully rendered ending, hinting at hope without promising certainty of recovery, are especially honest and notable. Secondary characters are less well developed, and the middle of the book drags at times. A note from the author, who is white, reveals that Jake’s story is inspired by his own. While Jake, who turns 14 while in treatment, reflects on his emotionally intense tween experiences, his goal setting is relevant to older teens and includes milestones like getting a driver’s license and attending college.

A sensitive, true-to-life narrative that is respectfully and indelibly portrayed.

(resources) (Verse fiction. 11-18)