**Warning this book deals with an eating disorder and treatment. Although the review doesn’t discuss it in detail the material may be triggering to some people.**
There are some things that are hard to capture, especially if you haven’t been through it yourself. It’s easy to judge and think how easy it should be to cure the affliction, but it isn’t, and that’s why I am glad books like Paperweight exist.
I’ve never had an eating disorder or been in a treatment facility, but Paperweight by Meg Haston is an eloquent portrayal of someone who is going through treatment.
Paperweight was a book that I came across in an ebook promotional email. I had never heard of it, but the back jacket copy drew me in immediately:
In the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss.
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert. Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at meal time, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid. Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life.
Paperweight follows Stevie’s journey as she struggles not only with this life-threatening eating disorder, but with the question of whether she can ever find absolution for the mistakes of her past…and whether she truly deserves to.
Before I start reviewing I feel compelled to say that I spent an entire evening listening to this audiobook. I spent about six hours listening to it the first day and I finished it the next day. It’s a beautiful portrayal with likable characters and the story is so character driven that you can really sink your teeth into and latch onto Stevie.
Paperweight is the story of a transformation. It’s a story of grief, loss, and an inner struggle. It’s easy to label this as an eating disorder book, but Haston has gone beyond the affliction of an eating disorder and written about how to treat it.
I will be honest that at times, the writing seemed a bit like a Lifetime movie, but the relationships Stevie forms in the treatment center are so tangible that it would probably be one of the best Lifetime movies I have ever seen.
Stevie is a character who is stubborn and snarky. Her inner dialogue towards the beginning of the book seems really relatable and funny at the same time, when it really shouldn’t be.
Her relationship with Anna is also really realistic. It’s a psychiatrist/patient relationship but Haston has focused on the treatment. Without being overly expository we’re guided through Stevie’s treatment plan and her experiences and through them we see our narrator transform from hard saltwater taffy to soft peppermint candy.
What she goes through is real and visceral. Descriptions of how she perceives food in her code and calculating manner make your gut churn and it is hard not to connect on an emotional level.
I won’t lie, I was skeptical about reading this book. I was worried about it being dark and depressing, but what I found as I finished reading it was a bit of hope.
If you don’t have experience with an eating disorder, this book is still about reframing thoughts, trying to turn your self-talk into something positive.
The audiobook in particular features a great performance by Mandy Siegfried that lets you see this transformation through the tone of her voice.
I am extremely saddened that this is Meg Haston’s only YA novel so far and I am really looking forward to seeing what she does in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend Paperweight.
FINAL RATING: 4 Stars
Paperweight by Meg Haston is now available for purchase from Harper Teen. You can find the audiobook on Audible or iTunes. Physical copies of the book can be found through your local independent bookseller, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.