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.)
Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, but now lives in San Francisco. She is an award-winning author of short stories, chapbooks, and memoirs. The Weight of Him is her first novel.
At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan has always turned to food for comfort. He’s obsessed with food: not just the taste, but the textures and everything about it. Especially the way it makes his mind go quiet. But in the wake of his son Michael’s suicide, not even food will help him.
Embracing the concept of “go big or go home,” Billy decides to lose half his body weight to raise money for suicide prevention…and to save his family from falling apart. But Billy’s family just wants to go on, and Billy struggles alone. As word of Billy’s efforts spreads, he gains unexpected allies as he learns to deal with his emotions and his regrets while he strives to find meaning in Michael’s death.
I wanted to read this novel because it’s set in Ireland—which is at the top of my bucket list—and because it deals with suicide—because a couple of people close to me struggle with debilitating depression and suicide is a real problem that people don’t like to talk about. (Mental illness is real, people, and if we don’t talk about it, how can we help those who struggle with it? Depression is HARD.)
But this book…it’s powerful. Not only does it talk about suicide, but about eating disorders and disordered eating. With the stigma attached to those who are overweight. Billy has emotional wounds he’s never dealt with, and Michael’s death just ripped the scab off them. Now, when he’s actually trying to deal with and heal his issues, his family wants to keep pretending they don’t exist. This is a very moving book that deals with difficult subjects.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley.)
Raesha wants to win Nationals. It’s not just about competing and how great her horse is, it’s also about honoring the memory of her mother and they dream they used to share. This year, it’s also about beating the new girl on the team, who keeps flirting with Raesha’s boyfriend and hanging out with her best friend.
Lighter. Leaner. Faster.
This is all Raesha thinks about. She knows minus five on the scale will give her an edge in competition, will make her horse faster. It will also make her more like her mother. So Raesha focuses on minus five to the exclusion of all else, until she is no longer sure of who she is without it.
The Sky Between You and Me is a free verse novel, which I didn’t realize before I started reading it. I almost put it down, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The free verse puts the reader firmly in Raesha’s head, allowing them to see everything from her perspective, where Lighter. Leaner. Faster makes sense. But the reader can also see the destructive path Raesha is on, and wants desperately for her to fight her way free of the eating disorder that has consumed her whole life. A great read!
(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley.)