Sethie, seriously conflicted by the challenge of navigating the uncertainties of a not-quite-relationship with Shaw, develops anorexia.
Previously an excellent, responsible student, Sethie, a senior, tries to live up to indifferent Shaw’s expectations for a good-time girl, always available for quick sex and willing to share his abundant pot stash and booze. Never completely addressing these soul-subverting issues—all seemingly in sharp contrast to her previous behavior—Sethie instead begins to associate her self-worth and value to Shaw with her weight. New best friend Janey helpfully offers her bulimia tips but is less than honest about Shaw and his ultimate lack of interest in and respect for Sethie. Third-person, present-tense narration adds an additional level of edginess to this already disturbing tale of self-loathing—and eventually even self-mutilation, as Sethie, spiraling ever downward, dabbles in cutting as well. Adults around her, including her mother, seem nearly unaware of her drinking/drug use/anorexia until a too-easy conclusion brings a hopeful resolution—undermining the potential impact. While Sethie’s negative behavior and disturbing mental landscape are vividly depicted, it’s less obvious how she became so deeply afflicted, information that might provide readers with a helpful warning.
Never an easy read with its unrelenting depiction of Sethie’s pain and adult inattentiveness, this effort provides some insight but little assistance with an important and challenging topic. (Fiction. 14 & up)