Book Review: thinandbeautiful.com
Second Story Press | 2010 | ISBN-13 978-1-897187-62-3 | $11.90 Cdn. (paperback) | 263 pages
Excerpt: “I didn’t do anything to deserve being stuck in here. But they locked me up anyway and threw away the key. Actually, it’s even worse than that. They locked me up and took away my Internet. My whole lifeline to everyone and anyone who matters is floating away in cyberspace.”
My Review: Seventeen-year-old Maddie has been admitted to a rehab facility for teens struggling with eating disorders. As part of her therapy, she’s been given a laptop and asked to keep a journal. Her journal entries chronicling the history behind her illness are interspersed with narrative detailing her time spent in the treatment facility.
When her doctor innocently suggests that she start watching what she eat, Maddie develops an unhealthy obsession with losing weight and staying thin. As her thoughts become more and more preoccupied with losing weight, she cuts herself off from her concerned family and friends. Convinced that no one understands her, Maddie turns to the Internet for support. She finds a “Pro Ana” (pro anorexia) website and starts chatting online with several girls who reaffirm her quest to become “thin and beautiful.” Calling themselves the Girls Without Shadows (GWS), they connect nightly to share “dieting” tips and exchange “thinspiration.”
While in the treatment facility, Maddie refuses to accept her diagnosis of anorexia. She scoffs at her treatment, which she thinks is tedious and unnecessary. Desperate to connect with her virtual friends, Maggie breaks into the treatment centre’s office to log-on to the website. The tragic news about one of her online friends is the wake up call she needs to finally admit to herself that she has a problem.
This book was a bit slow for me at first. I found the back and forth between the journal entries and present narrative a bit disorienting at times, and Maddie’s burgeoning romance with a fellow patient somewhat contrived. The pace picks up about a third of the way in, when Maddie’s journal entries recount her discovery of the pro Ana website and the extent of her illness becomes clear. I couldn’t help but ache for Maddie, and for her family and friends who are desperate to help her.
While the plot is somewhat predictable, author Liane Shaw does a good job of capturing Maddie’s emotion and self-delusion. While not as powerful as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, thinandbeautiful.com is an affecting and accurate depiction of an eating disorder victim. Anyone suffering with an eating disorder, or anyone who knows someone who is, will benefit from reading Maddie’s story.