July 7, 2015
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Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.Meg Haston's approach to Paperweight and Stevie's story was different from other novels I've read about characters with eating disorders and/or in treatment centers, something I didn't fully realize until after I read it. It was much less focused on Stevie's unhealthy behaviors than on the why and now what? of how she's living her life.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.
In this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut, Meg Haston delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss, while posing the question: Why are some consumed by their illness while others embark on a path toward recovery?
I liked where the focus was as well as how we learned about Stevie's past. Through her own recollections and dreams and through questions her therapist asks (and Stevie's truthful or not-at-all truthful answers), we get a picture of what her life was like prior to the treatment center.
It works very well to have how we learn what happened to and around Stevie be on her terms. We know she 'killed' her brother, but how he died, what happened and why - or even if - she is at fault is not immediately revealed.
Her brother's death also isn't the only painful or troubling thing in Stevie's life. We know from the beginning that she's not planning on living past the anniversary of Josh's death. What we don't know is whether that plan will come to fruition or not. As the author shows us the real depths of Stevie's pain and as we go on her treatment journey, nothing seems certain. It isn't 'she's in treatment now, she's in therapy, it will all be okay.' Instead, in the span of twenty or so pages, I could go fro sure she would be okay to sure she was going to keep her plans for the anniversary. I loved that her story and her time in treatment weren't black and white, easy to predict.
We don't see a whole lot of the other characters - between the 'past' parts of the story and time at the center all in 304 pages - but what we do get really makes an impact. There are unhealthy and troubling relationships and there are those that seem unlikely but then have more heart and more hope than I expected.
I loved reading about Stevie, her ups and downs, her past and, hopefully, her future, Paperweight is a great read.
finished copy for review received from publisher