A pat and somewhat clichéd conclusion luckily does not tarnish the rest of the narrative, which treats Pea’s mental health...

SAD PERFECT

Elliot’s novel helps to fill a gap within teen narratives about disordered eating.

Sixteen-year-old Pea (so nicknamed by her father) has good days and bad days. She has avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which makes consuming foods difficult and horrifyingly unpleasant. She feels as if she has a monster inside her, one that makes it difficult to be “normal”: it gives her social anxiety, causes depression, and makes eating in social situations a nightmare. But when she falls fast and hard for high school junior Ben, she feels different—happy—for the first time in forever. Although she starts therapy for her ARFID, she secretly stops taking her antidepressants, trying to privately keep the monster at bay. But soon the unmedicated Pea spirals with uncontrollable mood swings, disordered eating, and urges to self-harm. Despite endless support from Ben and others, it’s up to Pea to realize that true change can only start from within. The entirely second-person narration works, for the most part, to create a personal stake for readers in Pea’s journey as well as real empathy for Pea: “You want to appreciate food. You do. You just don’t know how. And you so badly want to learn.” With no specific cultural markers, both Pea and Ben read as white.

A pat and somewhat clichéd conclusion luckily does not tarnish the rest of the narrative, which treats Pea’s mental health struggles with care, nuance, and respect. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-30375-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression.

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GIRL IN PIECES

After surviving a suicide attempt, a fragile teen isn't sure she can endure without cutting herself.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Davis, a white girl living on the margins, thinks she has little reason to live: her father drowned himself; her bereft and abusive mother kicked her out; her best friend, Ellis, is nearly brain dead after cutting too deeply; and she's gone through unspeakable experiences living on the street. After spending time in treatment with other young women like her—who cut, burn, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves—Charlie is released and takes a bus from the Twin Cities to Tucson to be closer to Mikey, a boy she "like-likes" but who had pined for Ellis instead. But things don't go as planned in the Arizona desert, because sweet Mikey just wants to be friends. Feeling rejected, Charlie, an artist, is drawn into a destructive new relationship with her sexy older co-worker, a "semifamous" local musician who's obviously a junkie alcoholic. Through intense, diarylike chapters chronicling Charlie's journey, the author captures the brutal and heartbreaking way "girls who write their pain on their bodies" scar and mar themselves, either succumbing or surviving. Like most issue books, this is not an easy read, but it's poignant and transcendent as Charlie breaks more and more before piecing herself back together.

This grittily provocative debut explores the horrors of self-harm and the healing power of artistic expression. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-93471-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist.

SHE'S GONE

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Gifford has no memories of the car accident he was in the night of the homecoming dance with Chloe Summers, his now-missing girlfriend.

In the small southern Kentucky city of Bentley, comments on social media condemn Hunter as responsible for Chloe’s disappearance. When he attends the community vigil for her, Chloe’s mother publicly accuses Hunter of obstructing the investigation. Hunter’s own mom died when he was 15 and his sister, Olivia, was 12. Their dad has awkwardly attempted to pull his weight as a solo parent, and Hunter has stepped in and nurtured Livvy. Small but mighty Livvy is an ardent defender of her brother and is fiercely in love with her girlfriend, Gabriela. To make things worse, childhood friend Daniel informs Hunter that he’s making a true-crime documentary about Chloe. Hunter is upset, especially since it makes him look like a prime suspect, and a subsequent dramatic event draws more attention to the video. Hunter and Chloe met in creative writing club, and he knew she kept a journal—but it’s missing. Enter the sleuthing team of Hunter, Livvy, and Gabriela, who hatch a plan to find it. The dynamics between Hunter and Livvy and Livvy and Gabriela are endearing and will charm readers, who will root for them to solve the well-executed mystery. Main characters default to White; Gabriela is Mexican American.

This gripping page-turner will keep readers guessing until the final twist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-420-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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