Thursday, March 8, 2018

Something of Substance

38397420Seventeen-year-old Grace Michaels is determined to be thin, even if she dies trying.

Part of the in-crowd at Providence High, she is steps away from being asked out by the most desired guy at school, winning a prom queen nomination, and her parents’ approval. If she can just get skinny enough, be pretty enough, and popular enough.

But Grace is thin on the outside and fat on the inside. No amount of weight-loss ever seems enough. Convinced the melting pounds will solve her problems, every pound lost brings her closer to her goals. But flesh and bone can only hide the weight of her secret for so long.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Something of Substance by Tia Souders is a novel that tells the story of a young girl who suffers from anorexia nervosa. Therefore, let me start off by saying that some people who read this book might be triggered to take up the habits and goals that the main character shares in order to lose weight. If this pertains to you, I would not recommend reading this novel and I would also recommend talking to someone you trust about getting help. However, let me also preface this review by saying that the consequences of Grace's eating disorder are also very clearly spelled out in this book. She faces life-threatening consequences of anorexia which provide a real look at what happens to your body when you're suffering from this disease. 

Grace Michaels used to be (what she considered) fat until she convinced her mom to send her to (what she calls) 'fat camp.' After losing a few pounds at camp, she begins to restrict her food intake until she can reach the "perfect" weight, which to her is 100 pounds. Grace's character is presented as an intelligent and aspiring artist, but this novel is about what happens when popularity, appearance, peer pressure from bullying, and a lack of self-confidence mix together. As Grace fights the high school battle of having a perfect body, perfect friends, and a perfect boyfriend she also deals with heavy resentment towards her twin sister, who Grace sees as the better daughter. Readers will connect with Grace as she explains her feelings, emotional turmoil, and goals. But the story she's telling herself is one that has Grace punishing herself. It wasn't the easiest book to read, though the romantic side plot made it much easier to keep reading by adding a sense of hope to the storyline. 

Jake, the younger brother of Grace's best friend, has a huge crush on Grace and serves as the character who supports and promotes Grace's best interests. Yet, as he's trying to help her, Grace is repeatedly pushing him away as she tries to starve herself into the perfect person. It's only when she realizes that all of her goals are misguided that things begin to change. But it's up to Grace whether she wants to heal as her secret is exposed and the important people in her life step up to help. 

As the plot follows Grace's progress toward what she thinks is perfection, there are other little side stories supporting the main arc, giving gravity to Grace's situation. From the beginning of the book, readers know that Grace is in the hospital, perhaps a coma-like situation, but there is no information as to why. With this situation in the background, Grace shares the spring semester of her Junior year of high school with readers, including love interests, fake friends, and the extremes she goes to in order to achieve her goals. Readers will be emotionally connected and emotionally invested in Grace's character by the end of the book. It's heartbreaking that young girls feel this kind of pressure and it's important for books like this to draw attention to it. But it is also very important to demonstrate the harm that comes with this pressure on females to be pretty and perfect -- and Souders includes that in this book. 

Due to the volatile nature of eating disorders, I would definitely not recommend this book to everyone. However, the book itself serves an important purpose to draw further awareness to the issue of eating disorders. The deadliness of this disease is often ignored and easily avoided, but the conversation on this needs to stay current and writers like Tia Souders are helping to make it happen and keep awareness going. 

Rating: 3.5/5 Cups

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