Published by Hot Key Books on July 2, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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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 mealtime, 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.
In this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut, Meg Haston delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss, while posing the question: Why are some consumed by their illness while others embark on a path toward recovery?
Deep, heavy and depressing, Paperweight certainly packed a punch when it came to the feels. I picked this up, knowing it was about a girl suffering from an eating disorder, but little did I know, the multiple triggers the book would cover. Grief, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, depression, toxic friendships, negative body image, drinking and family neglect, it’s all here.
Paperweight would be incredibly difficult for anyone who’s ever experienced any of the above. This book holds no bounds and does not gloss over anything. Every sentence is heavy and difficult to read, a harsh look at the deeper recesses of mental illness and it’s triggers.
“Every person should be able to choose her own particular brand of suffering. It’s a fundamental human right. Death. Liberty. The pursuit of unhappiness.”
Being forced into rehab to cope with her eating disorder, Stevie is hard, angry and unreceptive to her treatment. This girl is mentally ill, and it really shows from her innermost thoughts and feelings. She hates the world, hates other girls, hates her situation and herself. Not having dealt with an eating disorder myself, the way Stevie begrudged every ounce of fat and avoided every calorie was rather confronting. She envies the gaunt look of other girls, with their jutting out hips and collar bones! It was disturbing, but it was also incredibly realistic.
Because Stevie is so angry and hateful, she’s incredibly judgmental towards the other girls in therapy. As time goes on, her thoughts around the only girls do slowly start to change, only serving to reflect that people who view others in a bad light are most likely unhappy with themselves. There’s a reason for Stevie’s distrust of other women however, due to being played with by a selfish friend in the past.
“For each of you, letting go of your eating disorder would mean letting go of many things. Who you thought you could be with it, what you thought you could change, or fix.” – Shrink
The catalyst for Stevie’s healing was her therapist (also known as Shrink), who played a major part of the story. Shrink is incredibly patient of Stevie, gently asking questions and allowing her to come to terms with things herself. But she was also someone who really cared about Stevie and showed that not everyone was out to get her. I was really surprised with her techniques though, forcing the girls and Stevie out of their comfort zones to face their fears. This seemed to be quite torturous for Stevie in particular, even though it turned out to be effective.
Paperweight offers slow character development for Stevie as she approaches the anniversary for her brother’s death in therapy. Through therapy, she slowly recalls what lead to her eating disorder and depression. We hear about her self blame, grief, and how lonely she feels. But we also slowly start to see her come to terms with everything. I only wish the book would have given us more happiness at the end to lighten the load of the book.
“Here in this artificial world, it is the same. Self-worth, relationships, abuse, parents, families, expectations, dead siblings: they’re the dark, low clouds that loom so close not even we know how big they really are. We can’t step back to see them in their entirety. And so we focus on the little things.”
Perhaps I’m too used to the happily ever after in fiction, but Paperweight is more about realism than anything else. This book definitely isn’t going to be for everyone, but I can see it’s importance. As a therapist herself, the author could probably help those out there experiencing a similar problem to Meg. It’s an incredibly heavy and depressing read, and you definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to read it.
Rating: 3 out of 5
I love the Aussie cover for this book (right), I feel like it represents the heavy impact of the story more than the US counterpart (left):
Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a review copy of this book.