Winner of 2023 Harvey Award for Best Children’s or Young Adult Book
Valerie Chu is quiet, studious, and above all, thin. No one, not even her best friend, Jordan, knows that she has been bingeing and purging for years. But when tragedy strikes, Val finds herself reassessing her priorities, her choices, and her body. The path to happiness may lead her away from her hometown and her mother’s toxic projections—but first she will have to find the strength to seek help.
This beautiful and heart-wrenching young adult graphic novel takes a look at eating disorders, family dynamics, and ultimately, a journey to self-love.
Ying (City of Secrets) offers up a clear-eyed graphic novel about Chinese American Valerie Chu's challenges managing an eating disorder, inspired by the author's own experiences, as outlined in an afterword. All Val wants is to be gwai—meaning good or obedient—for her mother. That means getting excellent grades, helping around the house, and above all, staying thin. Val's mother frequently reminds her "don't eat, just taste," and often makes disparaging comments about Val's best friend Jordan's weight ("When you get that fat, it's really hard to lose it," she says). Her mother's preoccupation with Val's eating habits results in Val developing an unhealthy rapport with food, including purging after every meal. During a class trip to Paris, Val feels free from her mother's watchful eye, but a family tragedy and a shocking confession from Jordan sends Val spiraling, forcing her to confront her destructive relationship with her body and her mother. Soft, pastel-toned illustrations and inimitably designed, emotive characters ferry a formidable story with a tidy ending that offers optimistic catharsis and healing for those contending with issues of anti-fat bias, body image, and disordered eating. Resources conclude. Ages 14–up.