Saturday, July 17, 2010
Janie Ryman hates throwing up. So why does she binge eat and then stick her fingers down her throat several times a day? That's what the doctors and psychiatrists at Golden Slopes hope to help her discover. But first Janie must survive everyday conflicts between the Barfers and the Starvers, attempts by the head psychiatrist to fish painful memories out of her emotional waters, and shifting friendships and alliances among the kids in the ward.
The story of Purge follows Janie as she begins her treatment for bulimia at Golden Slopes with other people who, like Janie, have eating disorders. As if the rules at Golden Slopes aren't bad enough - no napkins on your lap, you must be watched for thirty minutes after eating, you must eat everything on your plate - Janie has to deal with painful memories of the events that lead to her parents sending her to Golden Slopes, the series of events that went down during her sister's wedding.
A great part of the novel is not just Janie's journey through recovery, but also the story of what happened on that fateful night: her sister's wedding. At the beginning, you hear bits and pieces about what happened, but can never fully form an entire idea of what happened until later in the novel when everything falls in to place.
In all honesty, I loved reading Purge. A lot of novels written for teens about touchy topics like eating disorders don't come through as real. The words sometimes seem fibbed and you can tell the author has no true experience with whatever they're writing on. The writing sounds, well, fictional.
The different between those and Purge was that Janie came through as a strong character with defined thoughts and characteristics. She was solid as a character and the story of what happened to her came through brilliantly. My favorite scene in the novel, and the most emotionally charged scene, is towards the middle/end of the book when Janie is eating dinner and refuses to eat the cucumbers. I won't say any more since I don't want to ruin the novel for anyone, but it was perfectly written.
I myself have never experienced an eating disorder and cannot say whether or not the novel came through with the correct description of what happens inside institutions like Golden Slopes, but the scenes between the characters and the events that happened with the staff were believable. In a novel like this, realistic fiction must be realistic. If you've been following my blog for a while, you can notice that I don't read a lot of realistic fiction, most of it is fantasy, but Purge was great.
In all my reviews, I try to find a downfall in the book. The main problem I had while reading Purge was that the author developed strong characters who had smaller roles, but didn't do much more with those characters. Callie, for example. There is a scene in which Janie discovers something about Callie which may be the reason behind her eating disorder, but then that reason is never developed further. I wish there would have been more commentary in to the other character's backgrounds, but I do understand that this was a first person story written like a journal. The main character is the narrator and therefore she is the story, not the other characters around her.
Purge is a fresh voice about eating disorders that many teens should read. Not only does it address the emotions and causes of eating disorders, but it also debunks myths such as only girls have eating disorders in a way that isn't forced upon the reader. Sarah Darer Littman admits in her biography that she experienced similar troubles with body image as a teen, and this makes the message sink in deeper. Eating disorders can be overcome.
I am highly interested to see what else comes from Littman who has another novel entitled Life After that is now on my to be read list. Purge was a strong first novel for young adults and I can't wait to get my hands on another one of her novels.