Sixteen-year-old Clara, daughter of a famous ballerina, is totally normal. Or so she thinks. But her mom’s unhealthy obsession with food—and never eating anything “unhealthy”, including carbs—has taken over Clara’s life as well, to the point where it’s all she thinks about. After a social media disaster, Clara decides to spend the summer in Paris, with her estranged father and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum.
Alastair and Clara explore Paris, and Clara starts to wonder about her obsession with food. A young French baker teaches her about love—both of food and the “first love” variety, but Clara still struggles with the idea. Will it take another disaster to get Clara to admit she has a problem?
On the Spectrum is a spot-on portrayal of the affect today’s social media obsession can have on people, from the Instagram-worthy pictures of thigh gaps, to staged food photos touting healthy lifestyles. Clara struggles with learning that her way of life is not healthy, and admitting she has a problem. (That’s the first step in recovery, right?) her mental battles are portrayed vividly and believable, until the reader wants to cast suspicious looks at a croissant right along with her. Clara grows so much in the book, and her struggles are truly heart-wrenching.
Jennifer Gold is both a lawyer and teacher, and has studied at York, McGill, and Harvard. On the Spectrum is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Second Story Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)