This emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss, in the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at meal time, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life.
Paperweight follows seventeen-year-old Stevie’s journey as she struggles not only with a life-threatening eating disorder, but with the question of whether she can ever find absolution for the mistakes of her past…and whether she truly deserves to.
Books about teenagers with eating disorders are numerous (as are teens with eating disorders); Haston's contribution to the genre stands out for the complexity of its characters and for small, telling details that demonstrate just how difficult recovery can be. Seventeen-year-old Stevie has been restricting her eating since her mother deserted the family; Stevie's father is in no shape to challenge her, and though her brother, Josh, tries to reach out, Stevie ignores him. Then Josh dies in an accident that Stevie believes is her fault. When her father finally sends her to rehab, a furious Stevie takes comfort in the red bracelet that marks her non-compliance. Haston (the How to Rock series) expertly renders Stevie's scorn and suspicion, and it's tempting to root for her badass defiance except that it will kill her. As Stevie slowly comes to trust her therapist and care about the roommate she initially dismissed as chubby, readers will instead look for her to give up the illusion of control and find a way to accept the weight of her past and face the idea of a future. Ages 14 up. Agency: Alloy Entertainment.
I really liked this book. I felt like the anorexic thoughts were to close to home and made it hard to read sometimes. I liked the relationships formed between Stevie and the other characters and really enjoyed the evolution of Stevie.
open the potential of dialogue about issues
I’m going to begin this review in a way that is unusual for me: with a warning. The emotional trigger potential in this story is a large one: while Stevie is dealing with her own very large set of emotional issues, the manifestation from this trauma is expressed in self-harming behaviors. Those with experience of utilizing these behaviors to cope with pain and trauma may find difficulty in reading this story.
At seventeen Stevie has faced more than most two or three times her age: anger at her father for placing her in the center, guilt and anger over her brother’s death, some anxiety and a bit of control issues that have devolved into anorexia. Her story is told in flashbacks, with insets of the present moment and other mundanities that allow her own interior obsessive monologue and seemingly endless moan and groan take over give readers a sense of someone who is not particularly likable. And she isn’t at first, but as her story and history are revealed throughout the story, you come to at least understand where the anger and defensiveness comes from, if not completely relating to the issues.
What Haston does to great effect is provide readers with the damaged and a person in Anna, the therapist, to help Stevie sort out those issues and find a way to grieve in a healthy way, take control of her out of control emotions that are running her life. Because, Stevie is not in charge of her actions or emotions, despite her very clear plans to end her own life. Gradually the story unfolds, how her brother died, why she is so out of control, why she tried to equate emotional control with calorie control, and even teaching Stevie to learn to relate to the world and people around her.
Slowly growing, while not a read in one sitting book for me, this story is a glimpse in to what I could reasonably expect to see in a teen with great issues that resulted in self-harming behaviors. I would recommend this book to parents of teens first, to open the potential of dialogue about issues, large or small, that everyone encounters at one time in their life.
I received an eARC copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: al conclusions are my own responsibility.