For What It's Worth

Thursday, March 23, 2017

review: sad perfect by stephanie elliot


29102869The 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

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.

15 comments:

  1. Pea's attitude has been, in fact, a major issue with most readers (the love-cure angle too, but slightly less maybe). I read that the author's own daughter struggled with ARFID, but still. It's the same old story of making cliques out of different disabilities/races/religious beliefs/you name it, while we should have learned by now that we all need to try and understand each other, and to unite, not divide. Especially right now *sighs*.

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    1. I think it's totally believable for Pea to feel the way she does at first - she's going through the healing process and meeting people with other issues for the first time - I just don't think the author should let those views go unchallenged.

      It's a bit of a cop out to say I'm only writing about ARFID. Elliot should understand that by writing a book about ED, the book will be sought out and put into the hands of of people (especially children since it's YA) who have eating disorders and those words will come crashing down on them.

      I have read a few reviews by people who have ARFID that related to Pea and found the book helpful - I just think it's worth warning readers that might not be the case for everyone.

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  2. This book has been the latest with problematic issues in the community. I think it's great that you're able to express your problems with the book in a positive manner and that you see the realistic portrayal of the romance despite it being problematic. I, too, have not heard of this eating disorder so I wouldn't be so quick to judge as to what's realistic and what's not.

    However, I do think that shaming other kids with eating disorders is wrong on so many levels and not at all courageous. After all, they're all fighting the same fight, right?

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    1. I don't think people are perfect so her thoughts seem realistic to me. I have known people who feel that no one understands until they have time to reflect and look outside themselves or even the opposite thinking I don't have a problem because others have it worse.

      Sometimes a character starts off one way and is problematic but evolves. Or not but the reader understands she's wrong.

      My issue is the way the author didn't challenge her comments in any way and just left them hanging there as truth. I think that's very hurtful to people who picked this up hoping to see themselves.

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  3. I have never been able to stick with 2nd person narrative, and honestly the fact that it's second person POV and about eating disorders worries me. Pea sounds like the absolute worst. This book definitely needs a Trigger Warning for teens, as someone who had an ED in high school, I know how easy it is to fall back into this.

    Thanks for sharing Karen!

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    1. I don't mind different types of POV's. 2nd is the hardest for me though so it depends on the story. I think it worked as far as helping you to understand her manic feelings but it also made you feel distant from her in other ways.



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  4. yeah, don't think I'd enjoy this one. Not sure I'd like the narrative style, but also that the MC doesn't really ever learn from lashing out about other eating disorders. That type of attitude can be really damaging for teens.

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    1. Rewriting for clarity:

      Second person rarely works for me.
      I also read about the character denigrating people with "lesser" eating disorders. As a (former) ED sufferer myself, I have thoughts about this which are probably too complicated for a blog comment. Based on my own experiences, I think Pea's attitude could be realistic, but how about having her learn and grow through the book and develop some empathy? Also the "cured by love" trope drives me absolutely crazy.
      Not going to read this one, but loved reading your thoughts!

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    2. I completely agree Jen. It wasn't what Pea said or thought so much as how it went unchallenged by the author.

      I know those are thoughts that some people have when they are in the thick of things.

      I felt that knowing this book is going to be recommended to people with different disorders and at different stages of recovery the author should have been more sensitive to that. Yes, she's writing Pea's story (based on her daughter's) but the message is being broadcast to broader audience.

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  6. Hadn't heard of ARFID before, interesting. Sorry to hear the 2nd POV didn't work for you in this one.

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  7. Oh that would be a big ol' nope for me. I had one in 2nd person POV a while back and it made my head hurt too much. I'd not heard of ARFID before so that part is interesting, though!

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  8. Well that's bizarre, can't imagine why the author thought it would be a good idea to leave in an insulting message about people with "lesser" eating disorders. Not the best way to reach a broad audience I would think.

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  9. I hate books like this one. All you need is love to find the cure! YaY! At least do not be insulting to those that suffer from this disease. Yea, I think I'll give this one a hard pass.

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