This novel wasn’t what I expected. When I read the description on Netgalley, I saw it as a chance to read something different from what I usually read. It’s not a fantasy, which I read a lot of, and it was about a girl who rode horses, and I thought that might be cool. This book is about so much more than that, though. First, it was written in blank verse, which was unexpected as that wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the description. I initially balked a little, because I don’t read a lot in verse, but I’m glad I persevered. Second, it’s about a girl who rides horses in rodeo (which was not what I envisioned) and who is also anorexic.
The girl is named Rae. She lives with her father, who travels a lot for work. Her mother has passed away. There’s also a new girl in town, who seems to be making friends with Rae’s best friend and flirting a lot with Rae’s boyfriend. As we listen to Rae, whose thoughts and story are fragmented and disjointed by the blank verse format, we see her need for control evolve into the controlling of her food and her obsession with becoming “lighter, leaner, faster” so she can go to the Rodeo Nationals. Since you are in Rae’s head, you can utterly understand her situation and where she is coming from. Everyone on the outside she’s having problems with seems like the enemy. While you know that what she is doing isn’t healthy, you see from her thoughts why she thinks it is and why she’s doing it. I had strong feelings of empathy with Rae throughout, and I admit there were times I cried.
What I really appreciated about the book was that Rae’s anorexia was real and authentic. It wasn’t glamorized and (spoiler alert!) it wasn’t magically fixed. I think the authenticity here comes from the author. This book is an own voices read. Catherine Alene’s author note at the end explains that she has battled anorexia and is in recovery. I think this is a really important YA read for this reason. So many times In media, anorexia is struggled with and then recovered from, all in a short space of time. Here, Rae struggles. She isn’t cured. As I read this book, I thought of a friend who has battled an eating disorder since middle school, and I felt like I knew her a little better after reading this.
The writing style here isn’t for everyone, but I don’t feel like this story could’ve been told another way. I think as a prose novel, the power of Rae’s thoughts and obsessions as presented here would have been lost in longer sentences and exposition. As it is, this shows the struggle of a realistic character with anorexia and how the reactions of her friends and boyfriend and father either feed her negative thoughts or show her what needs to change. As her thoughts change over the course of the book, so do your perceptions, and therein lied the real power of the book for me. I highly recommend this if you are looking for own voices books about mental illness or invisible disabilities. I also highly recommend it for anyone struggling to understand anorexia and who wants a realistic take on what the thoughts are that feed it. I applaud Catherine Alene for having the courage to turn her own experiences into this novel.
Will you read it? Let me know in the comments!
Note: I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars