“Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.”
Confession time? I hate fashion magazines.
While I love shoes, and can appreciate the artistic aspect of some of the photos found inside, I think they endorse a horrible message. That you can’t be beautiful unless you are rail then and can distort your body in unnatural ways. See I was taught at a very young age (by my grandfather) that beauty is only skin deep. That lipstick can’t hold a conversation, and perfect hair can’t change the world. He told me (regularly) that he thought I was beautiful, so rest assured this wasn’t a backhanded lesson. But he also said the thing he loved best was my way with words. How I could manipulate them into emotions. That who I was, would ALWAYS trump what I wore. That remembering that would allow me to grow, allow me to be.
For years I lived by this mantra. Content to believe that my grandpa was wise.
Then in high-school all of that changed. Despite my unwavering emo-ness (which I had acquired by spending an insane amount of time in the library) I wanted to be noticed for what was on the outside (like other girls) not for my ability to write pages and pages of crap in my journal. I decided my grandpa was wrong. Beauty DID matter.
Don’t worry, I’ll spare you from all of the sordid details about my recovery from insanity, but I’ll tell you what helped.
For years I rebelled against the lessons I had been taught as a child. Insisted that I knew what was best. And then in 2003 I read a book that opened a door and let light back in. It confirmed what my grandfather had said to me so many years ago. That “sometimes people are beautiful simply because of WHO they are.”
In Heather Topham Wood’s novel “The Disappearing Girl” the lead character Kayla struggles to learn and understand, that very same message.
There is this saying (I’m not sure where it comes from) that says: “The best books are the books that make you uncomfortable.” I agree with this statement. While dissecting the complicated world of eating disorders isn’t fun, it IS a FACT of life. Dragons are not real. Harry Potter won’t be gracing your doorstep anytime in the near future, and (for argument’s sake) let’s just say there is less than a 1% chance a zombie will eat your face off next week.
But anorexia? Bulimia? Body dysmorphic disorder? These are diseases that affect thousands of people everyday. Diseases that cause families to crumble. Encourage lying, and damage lives. They are serious, and they deserve to be treated as so.
Kayla (the lead in “The Disappearing Girl”) is weighed down by all three of the diseases I mentioned above. They embody her, and control her:
But let’s start at the beginning shall we?
Reeling from the sudden death of her father, and subsequently pummeling of harsh comments (concerning her weight) by her mother, Kayla is slowing drowning in an emotional whirlpool. But one night of reckless binge eating (and then purging) shocks her into a ghastly realization. She can cure everything that ails her. Lose weight, be happy. But when (what started out as) a single thought morphs into starving herself and shutting out everyone she loves, coping with the repercussions turns out to be more than she can handle.
Kayla in one word is: troubled.
The world she lives in: scary.
And Wood did a fantastic job of articulating both. Walking a very fine line between grit and shock Wood introduces her audience to the (uncensored) harsh realities of extreme dieting. And as much as I would like to “nicely” relay the events of this book to you, I’ve discovered there is no point. So I’ll let Wood do some of the talking.
As for the “New Adult” aspects of the book. They were there (aka there is a hot boy, and they have a complicated relationship…yada yada) but unlike most NA these days their relationship wasn’t the “focus” (if you will) of the novel. Kayla’s struggles were. As a matter of fact, there is a rather large chunk of the novel where Cameron (the good guy that he is) disappears completely in an effort to maintain the forward movement of Kayla’s story. I think this was smart on the authors part. Also…it was refreshing. Their “spacing” allowed their relationship to develop naturally, making the impact in the end much more convincing.
This book is emotional and harsh. It is only 249 pages long, but it is a very tumultuous 249 pages. Touching on some of the most difficult of aspects of mental illness, and how to triumph over it.
Use caution when deciding whether or not to purchase this book. It’s good, but it isn’t fluffy.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: There is always someone there to help: National Eating Disorders Association 1-800-931-2237