Author: Natasha Friend
Year of Publication: 2004
Genre Keywords: appearance, bulimia, death, depression, eating disorders, family, friendship, grief, parents, popularity, psychology, sisters, teen, young adult.
Summary: When Isabelle gets caught making herself throw up, she gets sent to a therapy group for people with eating disorders – and to her overwhelming surprise she finds Ashley, the most beautiful and popular girl at her school, also in attendance. The two become friends, bonding over binges and purges and the relief of finding somebody else who understands what they’re going through. But Ashley can’t help Isabelle deal with what’s really wrong: the unhealed grief she still carries from the death of her father nearly two years ago. How can Isabelle heal if she and her sister have been taught to pretend it isn’t there?
Who’ll Love It: Often fun and light-hearted in tone for such heavy subject matter, this quick read will appeal to anybody interested in the emotional lives of teenagers. The rags-to-riches fantasy element of an unpopular girl invited to the “popular table” in the lunchroom is a fun exercise in fantasy, but the story really drives home the point that popularity, prettiness, and seeming perfection doesn’t guarantee happiness, and can conceal some pretty painful demons. It’s a very readable study on the difference between appearance and reality.
The Real Story: Isabelle may be a fictional character, but bulimia is more common than many of us might imagine, with between one and six of every hundred people affected, depending where you are and which study you take seriously. You can get a good general overview of the sickness here. Lots of people believe that bulimia happens primarily to young girls who think they’re too fat, but anybody can be bulimic, and the link between eating disorders and stress or emotional trauma (as with Isabelle’s grief or Ashley’s family issues) is very real in situations where people don’t feel they can deal with their problems directly.