Thursday, July 08, 2010

Purge Revealing, But Not Riveting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I love eating, but hate having eaten. I hate barfing, but love having purged" (55).

Life's not that bad for 16-year-old Janie Ryman. After all, she lives in a nice house; got stellar reviews for her portrayal of Anne Frank in the school play; and has finally caught the eye of Matt Lewis, the most popular guy in her high school. Okay, she has to contend with her blubberous hips and thighs, not to mention Jenny, the most annoyingly perfect half-sister in the world, but still ... things aren't that bad. So, why can't she make it through a whole day without sticking her fingers down her throat? Janie doesn't even like throwing up. Why in the world does she do it?

No one knows the answer to that question - not even Janie - which is why her parents stick her in a psychiatric hellhole known, ironically, as Golden Slopes. It's a facility where Barfers, Starvers and Generally Psycho teenagers gather to battle their various diseases. Janie's sick of the place, tired of the constant supervision, fed up with all the tedious rules, and dying for a smidgeon of privacy so she can purge all her frustration into the nearest toilet. She wants to get better, really she does, but she's not about to spill her secrets to some psychiatrist or, worse, to a group of patients more screwed up than she is. The only place she feels safe enough to reveal anything is in her journal.

Her parents - the Queen of Denial and the High Priest of Positive Thinking - want her out almost as much as Janie does (after all, every day of her incarceration just deepens the blight on the Ryman Family name). Still, they're not responding to her pleading or whining. It appears as if the only thing that can spring Janie loose is actually facing her problems, admitting things about them and about her miserable little life that she's never told anyone before. Janie desperately needs to be free, but is it worth spilling her guts? Wouldn't it be easier to just puke them up instead?

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman is the honest, yet sensitive portrayal of a young girl struggling with bulimia. It's a disease Littman knows intimately - her experience with it gives the story an authentic, insider's view into the psychology behind bulimia, the struggles of living with it day-to-day and the strength it takes to get healthy. While I think the book is both informative and important, it lacked the vibrancy or originality to really capture me. Neither Janie nor the other characters ever edge far enough past their stereotypes to become real. And, while I like that the story ends on a hopeful note, I think Janie's battle with the disease is a little too easy. Is it completely heartless to say that I wanted her to suffer more and fight harder? Probably. All in all, I think Purge is revealing, it just doesn't add anything new or unique to the subject. It's a typical issue novel, but only that. Typical. Average. Nothing super special. In the immortal words of Randy Jackson: "It was just okay for me."

(Readalikes: A teensy bit like The Girl With the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Purge from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thanks!

5 comments:

  1. Hmmm too bad that it stays stereotypical and easy. I guess it is good to see it getting attention, but I wish it could be more realistic.

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  2. Hmmm... I really like your comment at the end. "It was just ok for me." I have been feeling like that SO MUCH lately. I think Purge could potentially be a helpful read for some kiddos I know, so I'm thankful I read your review!

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  3. Interesting review. I haven't seen anything else about the book. I'm just hopping by to wish you a good day and lots of good books.

    Ms. Martin Teaches Media

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  4. I actually really enjoyed this book, but I didn't have much to compare it to since I hadn't read any other YA novels dealing with eating disorders before that. Even if it's a fairly standard issue novel, it could definitely be of use to teens struggling with eating disorders, I think.

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