Friday, January 16, 2015

No Go for Launch


Two books that I wanted to like but couldn't finish:

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Handless girl, religous cult, and murder.  This sounds like a trifecta with the possibility of being a stunning book, but I simply couldn't get into it.  I found the beginning extremely confusing, with Minnow going from a police cruiser to court to being convicted of aggravated assault to going to juvie in the span of like ten pages (okay, I was on my Kindle, but it felt really short).  Obviously, a major part of Minnow's character is that she's so reserved, but I felt no real curiosity about her.  And if nothing else, shouldn't the fact that someone cut off her hands make you interested?  Oddly, I felt nothing at all.

If one of the main plot points is that Minnow doesn't have hands, what's with the hand-focus on the cover?
I would expect that having both of your hands cut off would make a much greater impact on your life than what's depicted for Minnow.  There's a scene where she learns to put on stretchy pants with her stumps and that's about it.  She's told by the doctors that she'll learn to use her stumps as hands and we go on our merry way.  Okay.

From the moment Minnow started reminiscing about Jude, her FORBIDDEN BOYFRIEND, I could pretty much see how that story arc would play out.  Oh-so-innocent girl in reclusive community is saved/falls in love with a forbidden boy, but hark!  The vengeance of the wild cult leader is UPON US.  Lo!

Additionally, if a girl is a survivor of a notoriously insular cult-like community, what's the deal with immediately sending her off to prison?  I would think that she would be protected, not locked away.

After writing the first part of this review, I went and skimmed the book backwards to see if it would have satisfied me.  I stand by my original gut instinct of "not really."

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss.

Paperweight by Meg Haston

I know going into this one that I might not be able to finish it.  It's a book about a girl sent to an ED rehab camp in New Mexico.


The only book on ED that I've finished and thought was done extremely well was Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.  That's a really personal one for me.  I was still purging when I read Wintergirls.  I had taken active steps to get better (therapist, psychiatrist, etc.) but my brain still didn't get the fact that what I was doing could and would eventually kill me.  Wintergirls hit me like a slap across the face and somebody yelling, "Wake up!  Wake up!"  As I've said in other reviews that deal with this topic, I don't consider myself "healed" or "cured" and I never will; however, I'm doing a lot better than I was a few years ago.

The main problem with books about ED is that they are so, so triggering.  Girls and guys will read them in order to get ideas on how to purge differently, or how to hide their restricting.  I'm certainly not blaming any author who writes a book on this topic, but they have to be very aware that their words can send someone into a complete tailspin.  I knew what I was getting into when I requested the book, and I hoped that it would be a powerful, eloquent take on ED, like Wintergirls was.

Aside from the triggering aspects (which weren't as bad as I thought they would be, but Stevie, the protagonist, doesn't talk numbers, which is one of my main triggers, so that helped), the story falters in that it doesn't have a clear direction.  I read almost half the book and was still confused as to why Stevie felt the way she did, why she blamed herself for her brother's death, and why her sexuality wasn't addressed more fully (to be fair, this might have been covered in the second half, but I also read the ending, and I didn't see any answers).

I'm just going to write my way through this and see if I can clarify it for myself: Stevie's family life is less than ideal.  Her mother (who is either French or a Francophile--I never quite got that part either) left a few years ago.  Her brother, Josh, with whom she was very close (this we are told and not shown at ALL), died and Stevie feels that she killed him.  When her mother left, Stevie started restricting her diet.  Then she started hanging out with a Bad Girl who got her into drinking which led to bingeing on all the foods her mother never let her eat, which led to purging, which went back to restricting.  Half of the time when she talks about her ED, Stevie associates it with her mother, and the other half of the time, it's a way for her to die on the anniversary of her brother's death.  Then, she's also involved with this "toxic" girl named Eden.  Which one is it?

The surrounding characters at rehab are mind-numblingly flat and/or cliché.  The woo-woo therapist, the troubled-yet-friendly-roommate, the foreign doctor.  One very big scene in the book is when Stevie's treatment team diagnoses her with bulimia nervosa instead of anorexia nervosa and she freaks out because anorexia means control, but bulimia means failure.  That part was interesting to read, because I felt it was a really accurate portrayal of how ED sufferers think.  Definitions and classifications are important.  Really important.  Sort of like how the number on the scale can send you into a deep depression or elate you so much that you decide that you should restrict even more because it means you are powerful.

I don't know anything about the author other than what she wrote in the afterword, but she identifies herself as a survivor.  The book would have been much more successful had it either focused on Stevie's mom or her brother or Eden, but not all three.

I received this title from Edelweiss as an ARC.

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