A high school junior struggles with disordered eating and a life in the spotlight in de la Cruz’s latest.
Blonde, white Olivia Blakely can’t wait to escape her life in California and head to New York, where she’s sure she can pursue her artistic career. Liv doesn’t feel like she fits in at her elite private school, which is full of socialites and celebrities. Her emotionally distant politician father is running for governor, garnering the family unwanted attention, especially unwelcome since her relationship with her body is unbearable. Fat-shamed by both her brother and her first boyfriend, Liv’s been unable to shake the nagging, pressing, all-consuming cognitive distortions that feel only temporarily relieved by binging and purging, abusing alcohol, and, occasionally, cutting. Her only solaces are her two best friends and her crush on a Korean-American actor/classmate. But as men increasingly attempt to control her (her father’s campaign manager inspecting her image; her crush’s best friend assaulting her), her body, her potential career, and her potential to find love feel like they’re spiraling dangerously out of her control. Secondary characters have a diverse range of ethnicities and sexualities. Descriptions of Liv’s disordered eating and self-harm never feel gratuitous or glorified; instead, her first-person narration provides both a mirror and window into an experience of bulimia—a form of disordered eating relatively rare in contemporary young-adult novels.
Readers will root for Olivia. Well done. (Fiction. 14-18)