Paperweight by Meg Haston is the book I chose for the ‘eating disorder representation’ square for the Mental Health Book Bingo.
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. 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.
This was a really hard read for me. A lot of Stevie’s internal monologue echoes how I feel about myself and my weight – sometimes eerily so. I kind of sped-read this so I wouldn’t have to spend too much time in her head, because it’s a lot like being in mine. I’ve had disordered eating in the past, and I strongly warn anyone else who has that this book might be triggering.
“My body is both weapon and wound, predator and prey. I will self-destruct without any help.”
Saying that, this has one of the best depictions recovery that I’ve read yet. It makes it very clear that recovery is a long journey, with many ups and downs. I really appreciated that, because too often in mental health narratives the characters are magically fixed with a quick dose of therapy/medication. The depiction of therapy was also very good – it reminded me of the one good therapist I’ve had, in that it took Stevie’s thoughts and feelings very seriously, never belittling her at all.
There is also the under-riding theme about friendship in this book, which I found particularly interesting. (Quick spoiler alert: Stevie has a toxic friendship with a girl that turns sexual). This was contrasted with the sweet and understanding relationship she has with Ashley, another girl in the ED recovery programme. It really talks a lot about what true friends will do for you – how they will not sit back and let you destroy your life without comment. I thought this was very powerful. However, it did annoy me that the only LGBT+ representation in the book was with the manipulative friend.
I don’t know if I could read this book again. But I’m very glad that I pushed through it – it made me feel less alone.
Trigger warnings: Grief, physical and emotional abuse, suicide, depression, toxic friendships, negative body image, drinking and family neglect.