Cassie hasn’t spoken to Lia in months until she calls Lia 33 times in one night. The next day, they news breaks that Cassie died alone in a motel room. She called Lia 33 times. Lia was sent to inpatient before her and Cassie stopped speaking. She was being treated for an eating disorder after she passed out while driving. Lia restricted, Cassie puked. And together they would be the skinniest girls in school. But then Cassie died. She called Lia 33 times.
Laurie Halse Anderson writes as if she’s in Lia’s mind. The thoughts are scattered and rushed. Forbidden concepts are crossed out and written over; still there, but too scary to consider. Lia looks at food, and she sees numbers. She looks at herself and sees a giant, distorted, fat version of her body. She steps on the scale and it reads “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”.
Reading Lia’s thoughts and seeing her compulsions play out is… tough. It’s enabling, it’s triggering, and it’s terrifying. My biggest complaint is that we see these obsessions, we see these thought processes, we see the low self-esteem. But we don’t see how this started or how it developed. Her eating disorder is all-consuming now, but it wasn’t always. We see Lia and how she is, but never how she was.
I was unable to empathize with Lia on any level, and her story felt oh-so familiar. Broken family, with a step-sister she loves more than any other human on the planet. Her family, who usually chooses to ignore her struggles, is suddenly hit with reality when someone close to her and in a similar situation dies. Lia hits rock bottom, nearly dying before she realizes she wants to live. It’s the same anorexia story told time and time again. And Lia’s a flat, paper person who I had a terrible time trying to connect with. The compelling part of this novel should have been Lia and her bottoming out, her development and her growth. Instead the highlight was simply the writing style.