Announcement: The Bare Bones: Honest Fiction about Weight and Eating Disorders

Beyond The Best Little Girl in the World

Maybe you’ve read The Best Little Girl in the World and was wondering if there were more novels out there about anorexia or other eating disorders. Or maybe, like me, you’re just fascinated by this psychological disease that strikes so many teenage girls. Novels about eating disorders are rarely just about the disorder itself. Usually, these novels also explore the complex relationships between friends and family of the bulimic or anorexic and try to help the reader understand the factors that lead to these devastating diseases. You may be reading these books to try and understand why girls your age, (or maybe even you) are starving or purging. Or perhaps, you’re just interested in this strange, psychological topic. I’ll admit, I am! Whatever your reason, I hope you enjoy the books selected here. Some have sad endings, some happy, but they all send powerful messages about the body and image pressures surrounding teen girls today.

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith



“I had known Noe for only ten minutes, but already I could feel that protecting her would give me a purpose, give my tortured energy somewhere to go…I could be a normal human as long as I was interacting with Noe.”  Shy, awkward freshman Annabeth found a best friend and savior in Noe, a vivacious gymnast whose social capital kept them both afloat through high school.  Now it’s senior year and their solid friendship is starting to falter. Even though she would much rather be camping or hiking, Annabeth joins the gymnastics team and reluctantly strikes up a bantering relationship with Noe’s boyfriend Steven just to keep Noe close. But Noe continues to pull away, spending more time with the “gym birds” and deciding to apply to a different college. As Annabeth struggles with the legacy of a brutal family secret, a possible eating disorder and the consequences of one romantic night, she realizes she needs a real friend to help her get through it. But after closing herself off for so long, can Annabeth find the strength to trust someone new? This character-driven, emotionally intense tale about the slow uncoupling of a friendship will hit way too close to home if you’ve ever lost a BFF to time, distance, or someone else. Hilary T. Smith has only written two novels, and each one is a complex, lyrically written examination of a human being struggling to understand her place in the world against huge emotional odds. Prepare to be devastated, in the best way possible.

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne



Laurel should be grateful that her best friend Viv’s wealthy dad footed the bill for the two of them to join the SOLU luxury cruise. After all, the producers of the brand new sweetener promise that anyone who sprinkles it on their cereal will drop 5% of their body weight in the first week, and even though Laurel has come to terms with her size 14 jeans, Viv is convinced that they both need to lose at least a dress size. So Laurel agrees to go, even though she secretly thinks that she and Viv look just fine the way they are. Soon they are partying with the likes of Tom Fiorelli, a hot teen celebrity spokesperson who wants to become the next Ryan Seacrest, and downing SOLU like water at every meal. Well, at least Viv is. Laurel is too seasick to eat anything for the first few days and by then, it’s clear that SOLU works, maybe a little too well. Laurel notices that within hours,  all newly thin Viv wants to eat is SOLU. In fact, the fake sweetener is so addictive that soon everyone that has been eating it craves more. And when there isn’t any more, they begin to turn on each other in order to get their fix–in blood. The only ones who remain sane are those who never developed the craving, including Laurel, Tom and a few smart crew members. Now it’s up to them to ditch the cruise and warn the world that the greatest weight loss drug ever created has fatal side effects. There’s only one problem: the passengers are hungry. And the chance that Laurel and Tom will escape the ship with their lives is slim to none. But they have to try, because when it comes to SOLU, slim is better than DEAD! This highly entertaining dietary horror story manages to be compulsively readable while also imparting serious messages about identity, body image and the drug industry. If you like humor/horror mashups like Scream or Shaun of the Dead, then you will devour SWEET. Skip the latest dystopian blah blah, THIS should be the first book to grace your beach bag this summer. Get ready to become addicted when SWEET comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you June 2015.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


“We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.” Lia and Cassie have been best friends since they were little girls. They did everything together: sleepovers, ski trips, and, as they got older, starvation. Egging each other on in a deadly competition to be the thinnest, Lia developed anorexia, while Cassie became the bulimic. Now Cassie is dead, and Lia is left to fight her silent desperate battle with food alone. Haunted by Cassie’s ghost and the painful memories of two stints in rehab that didn’t take, Lia can’t seem to muster the strength to either kick her disease once and for all or join Cassie in what sometimes feels like the blissfulness of death. Instead, she drifts through her perpetually hungry existence a wintergirl, “a ghost with a beating heart,” not quite alive and not yet dead. She has gotten so good at manipulating her divorced parents and her shrink that no one knows just how close to the edge she really is. Deep down inside, Lia wants to hang on. If she could just find something to hang on to. Using lyrical language and a touch of dark fairy dust, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson shines a powerful light on the secret world of eating disorders. Her characterization of Lia is morbidly compelling, and once Anderson has you in the icy grip of her persuasive prose there is no breaking her hold until you discover what Lia’s fate will be. Brutally honest and incredibly well-crafted.

Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

Skin Donnie’s older sister Karen has always been the person he turns to when he gets upset about their parents’ constant fighting. But now Karen is the one who needs help – the family has discovered that she has anorexia and everyone will need to work together to make sure she gets better. Except Donnie’s parents can’t stop playing the blame game when it comes to Karen, and Donnie begins to feel invisible at both school and home in the wake of Karen’s illness. He feels guilty for feeling relieved when she’s in the hospital and he actually gets some attention from their parents: “Without her to absorb all the energy, there’s some left for me.” When the worst happens, Donnie will have figure out who he is if he’s not the family peacemaker, not the invisible son, not Karen’s nerdy little brother. This first novel is a riveting look at how anorexia affects not only individuals, but their families and friends as well. Donnie is hauntingly real and his pain is palpable. Keep some Kleenex handy.

Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig

Second Star This book had a tremendous impact on me as a teen and I’m thrilled to see it back in print. The author went through anorexia herself and a lot of this story is autobiographical, which makes it all the more powerful. Leslie Hiller is a privileged, white, uptown girl. Her parents live to please her, especially her mother. But sometimes she feels that her mother cares too much, and finds that attention smothering. When she can’t control her mother’s feelings for her, she decides to control her weight.The scene from this book that has always stuck with me is when Leslie’s mother takes a plate of pork chops to her room and begs her to eat them. Leslie swears she will as soon as her mother leaves the room. In the shadow of her mother’s anguish, she calmly walks over to the window and scrapes the food off the plate to the ground outside. Tough stuff that was ahead of its time and almost too painful to read. So, of course, you MUST read it.

Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb

Stick Figure Finally! They said it couldn’t be done–but Lori Gottlieb has done it. She has written a memoir about anorexia that is FUNNY! Not to trivialize the seriousness of this disease, but Gottlieb’s descriptions of her shallow Beverly Hills family in high 70’s camp style is really hilarious. The downside to all that humor is the sad fact that Gottlieb became anorexic when she was ONLY ELEVEN. That’s way too young for anyone to feel fat. If you want to read a really DIFFERENT book about anorexia, check out Stick Figure.

Life Size by Jenefer Shute

Life SizeJosie can’t figure out where it all went wrong. She was just being her usual, calorie-counting self when she ended up in this rehab for people with eating disorders. Hello?! It’s all those other people who can’t stop shoveling food into their mouths who have an eating disorder, not her. Josie is pure and clean and empty. Josie weighs 69 pounds. Try and figure out how Josie ticks in this insightful novel about anorexia. Flashbacks between her present hospital life and the past that shaped her disease really shed light on this girl trapped by her inability to eat. A great book that touches on all the social factors that can cause anorexia.

Wasted: A Memoir by Marya Hornbacher

wasted This compelling biography reads like a novel. Marya paints a chilling portrait of how bulimia and anorexia took over her teen years, and how she still struggles with her eating disorder, even today. Dragging the reader through her highest highs (a great political internship in Washington D.C.) and her weight dropped to 76 pounds) Marya gives you the inside scoop on what eating disorders are really like — and it’s no runway model’s life! But the part that really sticks is when Marya discusses, without a trace of self-pity, how ravaged her body and heart are from the disease, and how many years anorexia has taken off her life. (She’s only 23 years old, but strangers guessing her age think she’s 36) A haunting book that will stay with you for days.

I am an Artichoke by Lucy Frank

artichoke15 year old Sarah is thrilled when she gets the perfect summer job — as a mother’s helper in New York City! She’s looking forward to fun and sun in the Big Apple, until she finds out that Emily, the young teen she’s in charge of, has an eating disorder. Sarah begins to feel like she may be in over her head as she tries to deal with Emily’s strange eating rituals, Emily’s crazy divorced parents, Florence and Elliot, and her own blossoming romance with Angel, a mysterious boy who lives in Emily’s building. One thing’s for sure — things are going to get worse for Sarah and Emily before they get better, but you can count on a happy ending with this somewhat lighter take on eating disorders. If you find yourself bonding with Sarah, read about her further adventures in Will You Be My Brussel Sprout?

Nell’s Quilt by Susan Terris

Nell's QuiltNell’s problem is that she’s ahead of her time. A wanna-be feminist in 1899, Nell doesn’t get much sympathy from her traditional family when she tries to turn down her cousin’s marriage proposal in favor of attending college. To distract herself from the impending doom of matrimony to a man she doesn’t love, Nell immerses herself in the making of a crazy quilt. As Nell’s obsession with quilt grows, her body shrinks as she refuses both food and support from her concerned relatives. As the end of the book draws nearer, you’re not sure what will be finished first, the quilt or Nell’s life. An interesting historical novel that portrays anorexia in a way that has nothing to do with modern society and bikini-clad babes in Seventeen magazine.

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett

fat laneWhat if, all the sudden, for no apparent reason, you just started gaining weight, tons of it. We’re not talking just five or ten pounds here — more like fifty, a hundred pounds of extra weight that just show up one day even though you weren’t eating anything. That’s the nightmare that is happening to Lara. Lara’s a girl who has it all — a great bod, a gorgeous boyfriend and the perfect family. But that all starts to change when Lara starts to tip the scales in the wrong direction. Suddenly, Lara is getting fatter and fatter and nobody knows why. The doctors are puzzled; her parents are disappointed that their prom queen daughter doesn’t have the “discipline” to slim down. The extra poundage that Lara is packing on is giving her a different perception of her once perfect life. Lara begins to transform in her cocoon of blubber into a new person. She’s just not sure if the new Lara is better than the old. “Weigh” Lara’s life for yourself and decide if putting on the pounds has made her better or just bitter.

My Sister’s Bones by Cathi Hanauer

sisters bonesBillie is fifteen and out of control. She’s torn between wanting to be like her best friend, a rambunctious, big-haired sexy siren, and her sister Cassie, a cool blond with perfect study habits. Besides trying to appease her uptight, controlling father and managing her new relationship with the coolest guy in school, Billie is frozen with fear over her upcoming PSAT’s. Then, to make matters worse, she begins to overhear disturbing phone conversations between her parents and her perfect sister, who is away at college. When her sister comes home for Thanksgiving weighing next to nothing and wearing the same old sweatpants for days at a time, only Billie seems to notice that something is not right. Their parents stubbornly refuse to believe that anything is wrong as Cassie slowly begins to erase herself from the family. Can Billie make them see that Cassie is a victim of anorexia before its too late? While Cassie’s disease plays a part in this novel, it is ultimately Billie’s coming of age story as a “Jersey Girl”. A great novel that show how much family expectations can change our lives for the better or for the worse.

Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff



My Sister’s Bones, this novel is about a girl with a sister who has an eating disorder. But unlike Billie, Frannie(the narrator of Hunger Point) is about as obsessed with food as her anorexic sister Shelley. After Shelley is checked into a hospital for her disease, Frannie discovers her own self-destructive tendencies (dating guys that she calls “Rat Boys”) as she tries to understand why her sister won’t eat. With an uncommunicative father and a mother who obsessively diets and counts the calories on everyone’s plates at dinner, its easy to see where Frannie and Shelley have gotten such backward ideas about food, love and perfection. It’s only after a long depression following Shelley’s death that Frannie can learn to deal with her situation and come back out on top. A sad and funny novel about redemption.

The Passion of Alice by Stephanie Grant

aliceTake a trip back to 1984. Alice has just checked into a eating disorder rehab after suffering a heart attack because she has been starving herself. She weighs only 92 pounds. Along the road to recovery, Alice meets some seriously oddball characters. There’s Gwen, an shy anorexic who also obsessively pulls out her fine blond hair; Louise, a compulsive eater who always asks to eat Alice’s leftovers at meals; and finally, Maeve, the big, beautiful bulimic who will shake up Alice’s world and make her finally face the person she really is, and the person she has the power to become. This novel is slow getting started, but well worth reading through to the end as you watch Alice gather together the pieces of her life and try to figure out how to go on after leaving the clinic for good.