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Backonthescales's ED Bookshelf: Reviews, Excerpts, Discussion


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#21 backonthescales

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Posted 30 May 2015 - 05:11 AM

I'm sorry my quote button never works (stupid IE)....

 

Hanged Man - I've never read any more of Block's writing, except the chapter she wrote in 'Going Hungry' and I can understand that if everything she wrote was in the same style it would get a bit annoying and (as you say) a parody of itself. As if she only writes like that now because she is expected to! I also agree that she can make EDs TOO poetic and beautiful, but it really depends on what stage one is at with their disorder as to whether that's a plus or minus. I chose this one to review because it is different to many of the current slough of ED books available for YA audiences.

 

I'm glad people are enjoying these and I'll keep going... anyone please feel free to jump in with opinions about those I have reviewed as well as suggestions if you want to know about others. Today I'll copy out an excerpt from Anorexics on Anorexia and I'll try to find a pdf link somewhere.



#22 backonthescales

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Posted 31 May 2015 - 01:11 PM

Excerpt from Anorexics on Anorexia pages 67-68:       TRIGGER WARNING!!!

 

     So here I am at 33 still bingeing and purging. I am now self-employed, having returned to full time education at the age of

26 to study for a business degree and graduating with honours. I am living with my partner who obviously realises there is a

problem around food, but who has no idea of the severity of the problem.  I now manipulate him in the same way I used to

manipulate my family to ensure I have sufficient time and freedom to continue my horrendous way of life.  I do not believe there

is anything a fellow eating disorder sufferer could confide in me about their behaviour that would shock me.  If I have not done 

it all, I am sure that, through the various forms of treatment I have tried, I have heard of it. I wish I hadn't.

 

     How has this affected my life generally?  My social life is non-existent.  I have managed to maintain most of my long-term friend-

ships but do not socialise with my friends in a normal fashion. Most of my relationships are by telephone with the occasional

meeting.

 

    Healthwise, for my age I think I have experienced more than most.  My kidneys almost failed when I was 18 due to the fact that

I did not recognise the sensation of thirst.  I have lost almost all my teeth due to the acid produced whilst vomiting. I have the onset

of osteoporosis, which was discovered during a body scan when I was participating in research for the psychiatric hospital.  I have

permanently swollen glands and have often suffered from blocked salivary glands.  I could go on, but if the thought of any of these

problems commonly caused by an eating disorder deters a possible future sufferer, writing this will have been worthwhile.

 

    So where am I now?  At present I am six stone at a height of five foot three inches.  I binge and purge once a day and the medical

profession term me a 'bingeing anorexic', not that terms and labels such as these help anyone.  I continually set myself goals of when

I will improve or recover but these regularly pass with no real effort being made. I would certainly class much of my behaviour now as

compulsive and ritualistic and whilst much of the work into eating disorders tries to identify triggers, I know that a lot of my problems

occur through habit in the same way as alcoholism or drug addiction.  I can only hope that one day I can say I am a recovered or

recovering anorexic but now all I can say is that I honestly feel I am addicted to food.  


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#23 backonthescales

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Posted 31 May 2015 - 02:05 PM

If anyone is a paid-up member of Lilplay, there is a pdf copy of Anorexics on Anorexia there...



#24 backonthescales

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 09:57 AM

Review #5 - "Letting Ana Go", by Anonymous

 

 

       [A,E,F/M]    Contains Plot Spoilers from the off!

 

   Where to start, where to start? This is another marmite book as people either seem to love it or hate it, regardless of whether they have an eating disorder or not. Is this book actually a diary? Or is it a fictionalised account written by an adult author? Personally I would have to go with the later and I will write my review as such! 

  

    Letting Ana Go is a fictionalised diary account of a girl who dies from her eating disorder. The un-named protagonist (P for ease of writing) receives a journal from her school running coach who requires all of the girls on the running squad to document their food intake, to make sure they stay healthy whilst doing their intensive training.  The journal then quickly moves into an all out diary of P's life, showing the disintegration of her parent's marriage, a budding relationship with her best friend's brother and her burgeoning need to gain a sense of control over her own life.

 

    One of the main arguments I have seen against this book is about how unrealistic the timing of it is: 'her parents split up and suddenly she's anorexic'. I'm paraphrasing, but that's a common complaint. Well...no. I would have to agree with many other readers in that I believe P ISN'T anorexic - although given time she probably would have become one - her BMI simply wasn't low enough and behaviour not entrenched or severe enough to warrant that label. In this respect the book was incorrect to call her such, which is why I don't believe it's a 'true' account. Her best friend Jill, on the other hand, would be a good candidate for an anorexia diagnosis; Jill was already well into anorexic thinking and behaviours before she started 'helping' P. (Ana buddy anyone? :P) P's disorder would best be described as OSFED with anoretic features.  This would make the title of the book rather defunct, unless it's a reference to the pro-ana site P and Jill are members of and of  pro-ana in general. P and Jill certainly become 'ana buddies', texting each other when they want to eat and urging each other not to and to 'stay strong'.

 

   The overwhelming sense I have of the main character is that she is a scared, confused, teenager in pain, desperately trying to control her surroundings through her weight. She saw her mother's relationship with food (overweight comfort eater) and outwardly blames her for pushing her father away. And why did she choose weight as her focus? Because she didn't want to become her mother. She didn't want to 'jeopardise' her new relationship and was scared of losing him. And because that was the all consuming option that her best friend offered. She needed to connect with others outside of the family and Jill's own obsession was a sore enough spot in her life that she could absorb Jill's disorder and mould it to herself. It's not really that hard to believe (although an extreme example) - how many 15 year olds confess to loving or obsessing over a band or star simply because all their other friends are into them too. P needed Jill. And Jill was anorexic.

 

    The style of the book is typical YA reading. It strives to be modern, jumping from colloquialism to colloquialism, and making sure the zeitgeist is fully referenced to pin point it as an 'up to date', new book! References to internet clip shows and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and such like are liberally sprinkled throughout the text. The book is mostly written in prose, but the dialogue is written in script fashion, which can get a little irritating as I find it breaks the flow of the narrative. However, it does fit the overall gimmick of the anonymous diarist. The fact that at the beginning of each day's entry P record's her weight, is of course, triggering as is the constant disordered thoughts and descriptions of what she and Jill did or didn't eat. But then, why else would an already eating disordered person want to read this book hmm?

 

    The ending is rather abrupt and has to break from the diary format, with the final plot points conveyed through the transcript of a 911 call and a coroner's report. This does mean that the book is ultimately rather unsatisfying: we all yearn secretly for a happy ending and none of us in 'the eating disorder community' really want it hammered home that what we are doing to ourselves can kill us at a moment's notice, through any number of imbalances or malfunctions, regardless of whether we are at a dangerous weight. So while this book touches on the cult of pro-ana, it can't really be seen as pro-ana itself. Throughout the book there are various character's lamenting P (and Jill's) anorexic behaviours, commenting on how dangerous it is for athlete's to eat so little, threatening to tell parents and coaches the truth - so much so that I almost wish they had done, so the protagonist could have been forced into treatment earlier and thus, maybe survived. But perhaps that's just me.   

 

    So, over all, this book hit a little short of the mark for me. Young teenage girls will probably eat it up (sorry) and love the melodramatic ending "OMG - it's so sad right?" But I am left with one line from this book on my mind - it never tastes any better than first bite - and sadly that's what I think about this book too.       2/5

 

Letting+Ana+Go+Cover+-+Goodreads.jpg


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#25 backonthescales

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 11:16 AM

I have a pdf copy of Letting Ana Go, if anyone is interested then PM me your email and I'll send it. Otherwise there are several threads already in this forum that contain it!



#26 backonthescales

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 11:32 AM

Because this review was so long, and because I wanted to reply to this, there will be no excerpt, unless requested.

 

Fancypantses - in response to your query about her fascination with Susan, Jill's mother:

 

   1) The diarist (P) sees Susan as the antithesis of her own mother. Susan always seems to look great and composed, whereas her mother was depressed, frazzled, overweight and sometimes slovenly.

   

   2) this leads to P seeing Susan as a model of perfection - she is described as always perfectly put together, well dressed and made-up, well tailored and always looking in control of herself and her life, which is what P aspires to be.

  

   3) P blames her mother for her part in her parent's divorce. She believes that by letting herself go, her mother pushed her father away and disgusted him so much that he had to look elsewhere. This is compounded by the slim replacement her father had obviously had an affair with prior to the split. So P is angry with her mother and doesn't want to emulate her and especially her eating habits, because she is afraid she will end up like her (fat and alone) if she does. P believes that Susan would never let herself get into this situation and 'let herself go' and so she looks to Susan as an example of what a woman should be and how they should interact with food.

   

   4) As her eating disorder progresses, P becomes more comfortable around Susan than with her own mother because Susan enables her (and her daughter) in their disorders, instead of trying to instil and enforce normal eating habits. Whereas meals with her mother became battlegrounds, P knew Susan would never push her to eat. She knew that Susan saw the results of Jill and her 'dieting' together as helpful to her daughter's ballet aspirations and so would leave them to it. Susan is obviously unaware of the severity of her daughter's condition, probably because of the current aesthetic requirements of the ballet world.

 

So while it is obvious to all (even P) that her mother loves her unconditionally, it is understandable when seeing the above points, that P would want to spend more time with Susan than her mother.  I hope this answers your question satisfactorily!

 

 

Do others agree with this and my above review? Please chime in and get a discussion going!



#27 patchworkgirl

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Posted 02 June 2015 - 02:53 PM

i agree with your review!
i also found that the book tended to drag on & on until pretty much last half or so. & the talk of how "perfect" people were (her boyfriend, etc, with his "perfect abs", etc) was just so annoying. it was like everyone in P's world was perfect except for her mother & then later on, maaaaaaybe herself. i just found the majority of the book unrealistic, tbh, & the first half was dull as hell. i had to really stop myself from just skipping or skimming til it started getting more interesting. the first half was really just like a teen romance novel & i've always found those to be major snorefests.
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-4st7lbs, the manic street preachers

#28 backonthescales

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 11:00 AM

I also found that some of the characters were cardboard - especially her boyfriend. I mean, does he have ANY flaws? I was also fighting the urge to skip ahead all the time. In fact, I did find out that she dies at the end before I got even a third of the way through. Which shows just how riveting I found it!



#29 patchworkgirl

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 09:00 PM

I also found that some of the characters were cardboard - especially her boyfriend. I mean, does he have ANY flaws? I was also fighting the urge to skip ahead all the time. In fact, I did find out that she dies at the end before I got even a third of the way through. Which shows just how riveting I found it!


same here on all counts! i hate to say this, but i regret spending money on it. :P
"i've finally come to understand life/through staring blankly at my navel..."
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#30 backonthescales

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Posted 04 June 2015 - 04:12 AM

I was *slightly* annoyed that I found a pdf copy about 2 days AFTER I had bought a hardback version, but it still goes in my collection because I am still sick like that :wacko:



#31 patchworkgirl

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Posted 04 June 2015 - 06:57 PM

I was *slightly* annoyed that I found a pdf copy about 2 days AFTER I had bought a hardback version, but it still goes in my collection because I am still sick like that :wacko:


same here! i bought a copy, then a few days later i found the pdf here. boo! lol.
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#32 backonthescales

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 10:30 AM

Just received a copy of 'Appetites' by Caroline Knapp in today's mail, so I've added it to my large pile of books to read/review for here.... 


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#33 fancypantses

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 11:49 AM

Thanks, backonscales!

As an adult reader, I found Susan (the friend's mother) to be cold and controlling.
The protagonist's own mother was so warm and accepting by comparison.
On the other hand her own mother completely fell apart when her jerk of a husband walked out on her. All she did was cry. I can see why the P felt a need to join in her friend's no-eating club. It is so terrifying when a parent cant control her own life.

And I agree, it was the ballet friend who was more severe in her restricting. More afflicted. It didnt make sense that P physically succumbed at such a high BMI. The author probably did that so as not warn off readers from falling below that. As if.

Still, the portrayal of P's joy in the results of her own weight loss is totally realistic. Feeling stronger as a runner, getting better times than other runners on her team, feeling superior to the diners at the restaurant she works at, having the feeling that things were falling into place for her, all by the simple device of controlling food intake. It shows how powerful the feeling can be.

And I kinda enjoyed the short-hand script dialog. It is so tiresome to read authors struggle to come up with synonyms for the verb "said." "Enthused" or "sighed" is too annoying for words. The author simply writes Jill: bla bla; me: response. Fun. It helped make the book zip along, and was more realistic for a diary format.

All in all, I guess I'd be a little more generous: 3/5

Thanks for the review. Now i'll go look for Knapp.
Dinner is the least important meal of the day.

#34 backonthescales

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 11:58 AM

I'm currently half way through "Midnight Feast" by Martina Evans, which will be my next review for here, then Appetites.

 

I agree that Susan came across as controlling - I would have been really annoyed with her! But I can see why P was just so exasperated with her own mother. It must be so hard to find a balance between wallowing and falling apart completely when something like that happens to you. I don't know how I would cope if my husband did that to me!

 

 I also agree that the emotions portrayed when she loses weight are realistic and that as a depiction of someone with the early stages of an eating disorder it is correct, just that towards the end she is being treated for anorexia - a diagnosis that I do not believe is warranted :)


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#35 patchworkgirl

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Posted 05 June 2015 - 11:19 PM

excited to read your review of "midnight feast"! i bought a copy many years ago but somehow never finished it, i can't even remember why. i'd like to know if i should give it another go! i trust your reviews! :)
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#36 SilverMask

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 08:38 PM

Yeeeeees, thank you LAWD, I found the holy grail of threads. Long live the thread! 

I'm sorry, I'm an unapologetic book worm and every time I find books and people with opinions on them on a topic that interests me I generally feel like putting on steel toed shoes and doing some Irish dancing (always wanted to learn how). I've been searching for good ED books and come up with 1 or 2, so this is the light at the end of the tunnel for me. 

Great thread! :):):) I'll actually start reading the books now, maybe I'll catch up.


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A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

 

Height: 5.5''

 

HW/SW: 190lbs NEVER AGAIN!!!

 CW: 177lbs
GW1: 160lbs

GW2: 150lbs

GW3: 140lbs

GW4: 130lbs

GW5: 120lbs

UGW: 100lbs

 

 

thinspiration-2.jpg

Goals
Cheekbones
Collarbones
Flat tummy
Hipbones
Ribs
Bikini bridge
Thigh gap
Bony hands
Bony fingers
Friends and family comment on weight loss
People can pick me up easily
Wear the first thing I grab and look good
Look at myself in the mirror and think I look nice
Wii Fit BMI index says underweight.
Walk somewhere and not be fatter than anyone.
Someone saying how tiny and petite I am and meaning it.
The weight obsessed mother of my boyfriend saying I look like I should put on some weight.
Get bellow 110 lbs

#37 xLuvcatx

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Posted 06 June 2015 - 11:41 PM

I LOVE this thread!!! Thank you for not only starting it but keeping up with it as well!!  :)  :)  :)


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Height: 5'1

Age: 26

Hw: 240

Cw: 230

GW1: 200

GW2: 160

UGW: 130 (but secretly shooting for 120 or less)

 

GW: 230, 210, 200,190,180,165,150,130

 

"An ED doesn't care what your morals are. It will take those morals, beat them to a bloody pulp right before your eyes, and then place the weapon in your hands." 

 


#38 backonthescales

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 07:15 AM

Ok, so finished Midnight Feast this morning, just letting it sink in and I'll write a review tonight to post tomorrow :)



#39 backonthescales

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 11:44 AM

Review #6 - Midnight Feast' by Martina Evans (1998)

 

[ F,A,B,I]

 

   First of all, I need to say that I found it really hard to begin writing this review, not because I didn't like the book - I did - it's just not left a clear impression on a lot of things. But then I started writing and realised that the novel was much more than it seemed on the surface. Don't get me wrong: it definitely has a lot of problems, but it does deserve a more in depth view. So much so that rather than create a novella reviewing it I have left some questions at the end for further discussion.

 

  Synopsis: Grace begins a stint as a pupil at an Irish convent school in 1977. There she meets Colette, a very thin, rebellious troublemaker and her more sensible friend Trish. Grace immediately gets a strong girl crush on Colette, which develops during the first half of the book until it almost touches on a full lesbian relationship, but with Grace not actually being gay/bi, she freaks out at anything more physical. Eventually, under Colette's direction, Grace makes a pact with her to lose weight and get thin, which they do until they are sent to hospital. (I won't say any more as I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet!)I chose this book specifically to read after Letting Ana Go, because they both depict an 'ana buddy' relationship, but with different outcomes.

 

  I've seen some reviews saying that the authors style was very disjointed and that she couldn't write dialogue properly (GoodReads), but I have to say that I disagree entirely with that view and that the writing style is probably the book's greatest strength.  Having said that though, if you can't understand Irish slang or hear a thick southern Irish accent in your head when reading, it most likely will be difficult to get in to and interfere with your flow of reading. (In the same way that if you can't hear a Scottish accent in your head then there's probably no point in trying to read anything by Irvine Welsh.) Nevertheless, I really like this colloquial style as by using the Irish patter it brought the words to life and made the story more real to me. What else did I like? Well, I enjoyed the story (except the ending, but more on that in a minute) as it was a different take on the usual ED by numbers or memoir book and posed a lot of questions for me. I did want to keep reading, to find out what happened, so it held my attention and I didn't want to skip ahead as I did with Letting Ana Go.

 

  However (and this is a big however) the book is not without it's faults and some of them are fairly detrimental. It is a book of many contradictions and left turns, as though the author wasn't sure of the direction of the plot herself. Or maybe she changed her mind about the ending and re-wrote it. Grace arrives at the school as an honours student but promptly abandons her study to read novels during class. Under the nun's strict rule simply being Colette's friend marks her out as a troublemaker, but in reality she isn't. She always follows rather than instigates and doesn't try to bring anyone else down with her.

 

 Grace is besotted with Colette, but Colette is not a 'likeable' person - exciting and dangerous, yes, but not someone to trust as a friend. I find her selfish, as spiky as her collar bones, desperately seeking attention and goes about getting it by being mean, disruptive and purposely upsetting. She's very similar to Lisa in 'Girl, Interrupted'; she's very sociopathic and thrives on conflict. If she's not making snide comments about others she's bothering the nuns and passive/aggressive-ly bullying Grace and Trish into doing what she wants.

 

 Another contradiction: for a book about eating disorder's there is surprisingly little detail. It doesn't describe a singe weight, or pin-point how thin they actually got.  They were just frog-marched off to hospital. It doesn't really specify whether the girls are bulimic or anorexic, we are left to figure that out ourselves. I would say that Colette was a proud bulimic, whereas Grace is a reluctant bulimarexic. It is important to stress that this book was set in late 1970s Ireland and that the only available treatment for eating disorders was re-feeding.  Both Grace and Colette were admitted to hospital as anorexic, but we know better. Colette would b/p, starve, b/p etc. whilst Grace would (originally) just restrict. Colette had tried to teach her how to purge but she didn't 'master' that until she was released, fat after re-feeding, that she got into the cycle of starve, eat normally, purge. What is described in more detail is the effects of what they did.

 

  And then there's Johnny, Colette's brother. Grace has a crush on him, daydreams about him, but when she has the opportunity to have him she rejects him. She's frightened by him - he is said to be mad, and certainly takes dangerous drugs, but it is never really confirmed if he really is insane or not. He's certainly sick (he was inpatient for a time), but it isn't clear if he is responsible for what happened at the end or not. And the ending?! God, where do I start with the ending? While Colette's story is wound up satisfactorily, the author sets up a very exciting denouement involving Johnny and then completely u-turns for what is really a damp squib. I wish she'd had the guts to go with the drama she'd hinted at and given Grace a chance to save the day and stop being a passenger in her own story.

 

  And this, I guess is the crux of the issue with this book. Grace is a weak character, buffeted from one happening to another, being bounced around by stronger characters. She lets her mother, her cousin Delia, Colette and the nuns walk all over her. Without Colette, Grace is uninteresting. Grace needs to grow into herself and become a leader in order to get out of her disorder and extricate her life from Colette. It's weird, because the more I wrote about this book, the more I realised there was to write.                           3.5/5

 

Discussion questions!

 

What do you think of Grace's relationship with her family?

What do you think the author thought about the religious/convent schools of her youth?

How did the nun's beliefs and behaviours unintentionally enable or nurture EDs in their institutions?

Is Sister Carmel the surrogate mother Grace wanted/needed?

What do you think is the point of the character of Delia?

How do you think the author should have ended it?

Why do you think the author titled the book after something that happened right at the final moments? Is it a misleading title?

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#40 backonthescales

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Posted 10 June 2015 - 12:27 PM

Bloody hell that still came out long!




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