Thursday, March 23, 2017
review: sad perfect by stephanie elliot
The story of a teen girl's struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.
Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that's when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her. ~ Goodreads
Source: ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Right from the start I couldn't get into the 2nd person narrative. Sometimes it works for me and I believe it was done to give the intense, claustrophobic feeling of being in Pea’s head with her “monster” but I found it completely disconcerting but that's more about what you enjoy as a reader I guess.
I hadn't heard of ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Disorder), and I don't want to take away from anyone who may see themselves and be helped from this portrayal, but I had a few issues with this book. The first was the focus on the romance. While I know from my own experience, finding love can help you overcome things, this one felt unbalanced and that Ben was more of her cure than the therapy was. Not to mention that running full speed ahead with sex and romance while you have so much to deal to deal with emotionally is probably not the best idea - but probably realistic in the way that teens fall so fast and hard.
The big problem with Sad Perfect though is how insulting it is to anyone who has an eating disorder other than ARFID. Pea constantly demeans anyone who has bulimia, anorexia...anything other than her specific eating disorder. When she lashes out in therapy at the other patients, instead of being reprimanded or educated, she is treated like she’s the first person to have the balls to call out the patients with the *lesser* disorders while she’s the one with a *real* eating disorder. People are flawed, healing is a process - if you learn from therapy and to think outside yourself and empathize with others - fine. But she doesn't and I imagine this would be a difficult book for readers dealing with these particular disorders themselves to see their pain referred to in such a callus manor without push back.