Publisher: Scholastic Press
Format: Hardcover, paperback
Author: Sarah Darer Littman
Reviewer: Melissa on May 6, 2010
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
What’s the best way to celebrate International No Diet Day? In my opinion, it would be raising awareness about the dangers of dieting and eating disorders. The best way I can do just that is to post my review of Purge by Sarah Darer Littman and suggest that others read it too. If you pick it up, you won’t be disappointed.
If I had to use one word to describe Purge, it would have to be ‘emotional.’ Littman’s rendering of the YA voice is dead on making it very easy to become transported to the mindset of your own teenage years. For example, while I didn’t appreciate when Janie refers to another patient in her mind as “twiglet,” it is also clear that this negative language and cruelty contributes to the realism of the teen voice. Even those who have never struggled with bulimia like the main character Janie Ryman, you will find that the novel resonates with anyone who ever felt uncomfortable in your own skin and wanted to look differently. (NOTE: You might want to keep a kleenex box on hand to get you through the hardest parts on Janie’s road to recovery.) Some ‘issue’ novels bring you to a moment of catharsis and lead you nowhere else, but Littman adeptly details Janie’s development from start to finish.
Since Purge is a realistic ‘issue’ novel, one would hope that the experiences and motivation behind the character’s actions follows a logical path and on this account Littman follows through with a ‘truth’ that is universally recognizable. For example, in one group therapy session Janie comes to the realization that the behaviors and thoughts of her friends’ parents have a great impact on those of their children. Since one of the anorexic girls named Bethany has a mother who is CONSTANTLY counting the calories and carbs of anything that passes through her own lips and those of her kids, Janie (and the reader) isn’t at all surprised that Bethany would have an issue with food. By understanding why other individuals suffer from food-related disorders, Janie is able to come to a place of self awareness regarding her own situation.
While this is a novel about one girl’s secret struggle with bulimia and her road to recovery, I really appreciated that there is more going on with Purge than meets the eye. First, Golden Slopes – the psychiatric facility where we first encounter Janie – helps both women and men suffering from bulimia and other types of eating disorders. In so doing, Littman combats the stereotypes associated with teenage boys who suffer from eating disorders. Second, although individuals develop eating disorders in part because of the desire to be thinner, there are other factors in play, including but not limited to poor self esteem and problems within one’s family. Readers will come away with the knowledge that the reasons one develops eating disorders are diverse and while some behaviors may have become normalized, they still denote an unhealthy relationship with food.
Celebrate International No Diet Day with YA Book Shelf and buy Purge today!