Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that's why it doesn't hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn't hurt, because she's not real anymore.
High school senior Sarah Beth (Sethie) Weiss is disciplined. She has never cut a class in her life, has never had a grade below a B+, and has always been a favorite among her teachers. Her college applications are finished and she only ate six Ritz crackers today. But even on days when Sethie needs to eat more, there's always the toilet to make up for her mistakes. Sethie manages to get down to 104, and maybe if she works just a little bit harder, becomes a little more disciplined, she can get below 100. Truth be told, Sethie has more to worry about than her relationship with her body; but the deeper she descends into her disorder, the smaller her world gets and the harder it is to see her way out.
As someone who has, in the past, suffered from a severe eating disorder, I was immediately interested in reading and reviewing this book.
Let me begin by saying that it wasn’t an easy one to get through, since anyone who’s ever suffered from these diseases will identify in a painful way with Sethie’s struggle. With her every thought and action. She is a wonderfully realized character, one we begin to care about from the very first page. Her struggle is not unique, but this doesn’t make it any less harrowing. The writing style helps with this, its starkness leaving the plot actions splayed out for the reader. The harshness is devastating and beautiful at the same time.
I do wish, however, the author would have written just a bit more about the sense of “power” an eating disorder gives its sufferer. That seemed to be forgotten in the novel, focusing only on the need to “not look fat”. As any sufferer of anorexia or bulimia will tell you, that stops being the case after a while. It starts to become a fight to not lose control. This felt sidelined in the novel, and it is a crucial thing to understand.
Another thing that was jarring was the ending. Much too abrupt. And who are we kidding? Eating disorders are not resolved in an afternoon because a friend convinces you that you need to be alive to go to college. Eh, not the most realistic of endings.
Despite this, I do still recommend the book. It is nicely written, and though it offers nothing new or enlightening on eating disorders, it is still an interesting, quick read.