Book 8: thinandbeautiful.com
thinandbeautiful.com by Liane Shaw. Second Story Press, 2009 (978-1-8971887-62-3) $11.95 trade
I'm not a fan of problem novels, but this one had a hook that grabbed me instantly: it's about a girl involved with a "pro-Ana" support group online. Maddie narrates her story from an eating disorders clinic where, in her mind, everyone is in a conspiracy to force her to be fat. Cut off from the Internet, she desperately misses the only support she had, the group of "Girls Without Shadows" who were the only ones who understood her need to do anything to be thin. But as Maddie describe the events that led her to the clinic, she starts to feel less sure of what she believes:
"I thought I had this all figured out. Looking back, I was sure I knew what I was doing. I have a right to do what I want with my own body, and so I did it. I wasn't hurting anyone, including myself. I knew this absolutely. I had it confirmed by my GWS and everything."
Confused and desperate for non-judgmental support, Maddie breaks the clinic rules to talk to her online friends one more time. What she discovers then will change her life forever.
The best thing about this story is the authenticity of the online culture depicted--and it's a sympathetic portrayal, as well. Though we know as readers that all of the GWS girls are deceiving themselves and each other, there is clearly no malice, just as great deal of pathetic self-delusion. Oddly, the "real" characters in the story don't come to life nearly as well, and a somewhat contrived bit of romance with a boy in the clinic falls flat. But though the writing may not rise much above "message novel" competence, it's a very engrossing, fast-paced story that stirs up a lot of feelings, and will likely have a strong appeal to teen readers. (12 & up)
Incidentally, the author has used the title of her book for an interesting website.
Reading: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Blogging: 29 minutes
FTC disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher. This blog is completely independent, but I receive a small percentage if you order books from Powell's via this site.