Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green (9781941302415)

A harrowing look at anorexia from its very beginnings as a child through to new adulthood and its lingering effects even after recovery, this graphic novel is frank and honest about the illness. A personal memoir, Green tells the story of herself as a child in England being a picky eater and her parents trying to make her eat, of hiding food from them. As a teen, she became anorexic to the point of near death and potential hospitalization. She was pulled from school in order to regain her health. With the help of a nontraditional therapist, Katie did recover but only to find that he had been abusing her. Now her recovery was in peril and she began binge eating to stop the thoughts and feelings that overwhelmed her. Through a slow new recovery, Katie came to terms with food, emotions and being good to herself.

I read this book in a single sitting, unable to turn away from Katie’s very personal story of illness, recovery, setbacks and recovery once more. It’s not a small graphic novel, coming in at over 500 pages but once you begin it, it’s impossible to not know what happens to Katie in the end. She puts an incredibly human face on anorexia, showing readers an amazing vulnerability and strength on every page.

The art here is handled with a delicacy and subtlety that suits the subject well. Small changes in background color, show the difference between memory and current time in the story. The illness of anorexia is shown as a black cloud of tangled lines that follows Katie wherever she goes and takes over entire panels on the page. It is a particularly effective choice so that readers can see the struggle as something tangible.

Heartfelt and vibrantly personal, this graphic novel takes on difficult subjects with grace and care. Appropriate for ages 14-18. (E-galley received from Edelweiss and Lion Forge.)

 

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The town that Mikey lives in has been hit by more than its share of strange things. There were the vampires, soul-eating ghosts and the zombies. But Mikey isn’t one of the kids who would get caught up in those situations. He’s not an indie kid, just a normal kid who wants to graduate from high school in a few weeks, maybe kiss one of his closest friends, go to the prom, and just spend time together with the people he loves. But life isn’t that simple and strange things are happening around the town with blue lights glowing, angry cops with blue glowing eyes, dead deer that come back to life, and much more. Mikey is all ready to blame the new kid for everything, including his own inability to date Henna. And Mikey is having to deal with his own OCD returning, unable to stop washing his hands until they are bleeding. Then there’s the problem of his dad’s drinking and his mother’s inattention as she runs her new political campaign. Even Mikey’s older sister is struggling again with her eating disorder. As graduation nears and the town gets even more unstable, Mikey must learn more about himself and his friends before he can realize just how amazing life really is.

Ness adroitly combines several genres in this novel for teens. There are the real-life teen elements of parental dysfunction and mental illness. Those are cleverly combined with a fantasy novel that has children of cat gods, magical elves, and bodies that are used as vessels. And finally, there is the perfect ironic twist of being a parody of popular teen novels like Twilight. Ness does this final piece by having the events of a Twilight-like novel happening around the characters but rarely to them, the story of those events is told in quick manner at the beginning of each chapter and then left aside as Mikey and his story takes center stage with its brilliant mix of magic and normal.

It is that delightful genre bending that makes this book so special. But it is also the fact that though Ness is poking fun at some of the more popular genre tropes, he is also writing a great book that will please fans of those books too. The parody is there yes, but underneath that is a novel that has truly human characters who love one another, struggle with their own failings, yearn for more in life, and work hard to make sure that those they love are protected and cared for. It’s a novel with a true heart, one that is not ironic in any way, but gorgeous and honest.

A fascinating read, this teen novel will have you laughing at the parody while all the time enjoying the real depth of its characters. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from HarperTeen.

Review: Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

zoe letting go

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Zoe has been placed at a treatment facility by her mother.  At Twin Birch, each of the six patients arrives on a different day, staggered so that they can have a personal intake.  When Zoe arrives, she has no idea why she is there.  It just gets more confusing as she meets the other girls who are patients too.  They are all skeletal and obviously suffering from anorexia, but Zoe is not like them.  She has never stopped eating, she is larger than all of them, and her body doesn’t shiver after eating like theirs does.  Most of all, Zoe misses her best friend, Elise.  Provided stationery by her therapist, Zoe writes Elise long letters about their friendship thinking back about all of the time they spent together and revealing slowly the nature of their relationship.  Elise, though, never writes back.  This psychological thriller will have readers eager to discover the truth about Zoe and why she is at Twin Birch.

I am torn about this book.  I could not put it down until I knew more about Zoe.  She is a fascinating protagonist, who is completely unreliable and yet very likeable.  Her doubts about why she is there serve as a very successful way to create tension and mystery.  Zoe is caught up in her own world that slowly crumbles as the book progresses. 

However, at the end of the book, the story itself falls apart.  I’m not a reader who has any problem with vague endings usually, but if you build a book around the question of what is wrong with Zoe and who she really is, you have to answer that question!  This book doesn’t do that and it is very disappointing to the reader.  I wasn’t looking for details about her life after Twin Birch, but I did want more clarity about her real relationship with Elise.  The few details offered were tantalizing glimpses of bullying, but only that.

This is a complex, riveting read that is also a fascinating look at grief, responsibility and eating disorders.  It just doesn’t coalesce at the end, sadly.  Appropriate for ages 14-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Razor Bill.