Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Audience: 9th grade and up
Lia and Cassie used to the best of friends. When high school hit, they parted ways. Now Cassie is dead and Lia is very alone. Both of them had major eating disorders. Purging and starving themselves to the point of being hospitalized or, in Cassie’s case, death. Lia struggles with her desire to eat but believes that she has to under one hundred pounds in order to be attractive. She has overbearing parents that want the best for her but have really poor ways of showing it. They try to control her rather than talk to her. She feels like a prisoner all day, every day. Then Cassie’s ghost begins to haunt her and Lia believes she just might end up going over the edge.
Pressure is a major theme in this book. It’s not just your typical peer pressure either. A lot of it comes from the parents in this book. Lia’s parents are very successful and seem to be caught up in their own success and professional lives than to pay much attention to Lia except for when she makes a mistake. There is no positive reinforcement or really much love from either of them for most of the story. Her moth does eventually open up to her and admits how much she missed her when she moved out and that it was her own fault for pushing her daughter away.
Cassie’s parents aren’t seen very much throughout the story but it is mentioned that they didn’t seem to pay too much attention to her and when Cassie’s ghost talks about her father whistling at her swim meets, he spent more time on telling her what she did wrong rather than complimenting her.
Also there is the pressure from society of having to be perfect, slim, and have a 00 waistline.
Duality is another major theme that shows up in the writing of this novel. You see numerous thoughts of Lia’s that are in direct contrast to what she actually says. This shows the different sides of her. The real side and the fake side. The text has lines drawn through it as if to try and etch them out of Lia’s mind. She fights so hard to keep the real her bottled up.
I know many people who have parents that are too caught up in their own lives and endeavors to even worry about their kids. They ignore them until they do something wrong, then they get all the attention in world. Even though that attention is negative it at least gives these kids some connection to their parents. I felt like this may have been part of Lia’s problem. Yes, it was much bigger than just wanting attention. In fact, many times Lia just wanted to get away from them but she kept doing it because she developed a serious problem. At first it might have been a bit nice to see that her parents cared but then the problem grew and grew until she spiraled out of control.
This book, while certainly not my favorite, was interesting nonetheless. I thought it did a fine job of showing a very big problem in the youth of today that many people are too afraid to tackle. These days, ad campaigns, television, and many other types of media all portray women as extremely thin and sexual. This instills a sense that all women need to look like this in order to be attractive and successful. Books like this show young women that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The review at The Guardian found this book to be a very effective work of YAL. “It’s a book that will be around for many years. It may not be an original piece, as these tricks have been pulled before in teen fiction. Yet it pulls them off with more skill and effect than anything I have ever read.”