Thursday, 23 July 2015

Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Length: 304 pages

Huge thanks to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Struggling to deal with her brother's death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she's still furious about the fact that she's been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only. The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie - and don't even get her started on the other 'inmates'. All she wants is to be left alone...
But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows - even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.

This is an incredibly tough book to read, and also a very triggering book if you’ve ever suffered from or are currently suffering from an eating disorder. However it was also a really important book to read, so despite how hard and triggering I was finding it, I persevered because Stevie and her story was something that needed to be heard.

Stevie is not a likeable person. She’s hard and aggressive and not meant to be likeable, but despite all that you feel for her. In some cases you’ll be able to understand, to empathise with the things she’s doing and the ways she is feeling. She is not meant to be a cuddly person you instantly get on with, she is meant to be someone who has had terrible things happen and is suffering and lashing out in the only way that she knows how. Her arc and growth is tremendous, you can watch the shifts start to happen as she begins to talk to people, to refer to them by name, to understand what has happened, to let go of the guilt and to start to want to get better.

It’s definitely a story driven by character, there isn’t much in the way of plot, and for some people that will be frustrating, but for me it worked really well. I may not have liked Stevie a lot of the time, but I was definitely invested and engaged. I wanted to learn more, to see how she would respond in these situations, to see her perception of herself and the world begin to change.

The girls surrounding Stevie are just as fascinating. We don’t learn a huge amount about them, because Stevie herself is not interested or doesn’t feel like she can ask or talk, but what glimpses we do get help to paint a vivid picture of life with an eating disorder and the struggle to recovery.

I absolutely loved Stevie’s relationship with Shrink/Anna. I loved that it was a portrayal of a psychologist that was actually good and helpful, rather than making her out to be unfeeling or horrid, or any of the other usual portrayals in YA fiction. It was a breath of fresh air to see such a human person in this position and I loved this book for daring to allow Anna to be human.

The one thing that I was frustrated about is that whilst it is touched upon briefly, the majority of the focus is left on people who develop an eating disorder due to traumatic circumstances or events. Only one of the girls has an eating disorder for no discernible reason, and whilst it was really good that it is brought up and touched upon that it is almost worse in some ways to not be able to label and understand why you have this problem and how you’re not sure how to get better from it, I could have done with more time being spent on that issue. We see a lot from the other girls who have had trauma that has resulted in the disorder, but not really enough from the flip side.

“But we are a group of girls so overwhelmed by our mere existence that it’s almost paralyzing, the idea of dealing with the ‘big picture’ issues. It’s the reason we got this way to begin with. The reason a single caloric unit takes on such importance, the reason the pound becomes our currency of worth. These are things we can manage.”

This is a hard book, but an important one. One that casts an unflinching gaze on eating disorders – the hierarchy, the rituals, the warped sense of self. It is a book that needs to be read, needs to have more people understanding, and one that offers a mirror for those who have suffered, or are suffering from an eating disorder. One that shows that you are not alone. That you do not need to let it consume you. That there is hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment