Depicting with humor and insight the pressure to be outwardly perfect, this novel for ages 10-13 shows how one girl develops compassion for her own and others’ imperfections.
For 13-year-old Isabelle Lee, whose father has recently died, everything's normal on the outside. Isabelle describes the scene at school with bemused accuracy--the self-important (but really not bad) English teacher, the boy that is constantly fixated on Ashley Barnum, the prettiest girl in class, and the dynamics of the lunchroom, where tables are turf in a all-eyes-open awareness of everybody's relative social position.
But everything is not normal, really. Since the dealth of her father, Isabelle's family has only functioned on the surface. Her mother, who used to take care of herself, now wears only lumpy, ill-fitting clothes, cries all night, and has taken every picture of her dead husband and put them under her bed. Isabelle tries to make light of this, but the underlying tension is expressed in overeating and then binging. As the novel opens, Isabelle's little sister, April, has told their mother about Isabelle's problem. Isabelle is enrolled in group therapy. Who should show up there, too, but Ashley Barnum, the prettiest, most together girl in class.
Ever since 13-year-old Isabelle Lee's dad died nearly two years ago, her mother refuses to talk about him or cry publicly. Isabelle has followed her example, keeping her feelings inside. On the day of his funeral, though, she began binging and purging. When she's later caught (her younger sister tells on her) her mother sends her to an eating disorder support group, where Isabelle is surprised to see "perfect" Ashley, the most popular girl in her grade. The two form a friendship that revolves around their eating disorder; they use their hands to cram down mass amounts of food, then throw up in a dumpster, side by side (Ashley even introduces Isabelle to ex-lax). The story arc here is fairly predictable: Isabelle learns that Ashley's life is not so perfect after all, and this combined with therapy puts her on the road to recovery. But graphic binging and purging scenes ("I alternated handfuls of potato chips and HoHos with swallows of Diet Coke.... It always feels better coming up than going down") and Isabelle's therapy sessions help explain the disease to readers without seeming didactic. The believable and likable heroine relates many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments (in one scene, she and her sister decide to celebrate Hanukkah, which they haven't done since her Jewish father died; they raise their glasses to his empty chair). Ultimately Isabelle's story will both touch and educate readers. Ages 12-up.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I could NOT put this book down. Though it is very, sad emotional and a incredible story it is still inspiring and a great read for teens. NOBODY IS PERFECT.