I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard
Genres: Contemporary, General/Issue, Young Adult
Published by Macmillan on June 6th 2017
Format: ARC (400 pages) • Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size-zero obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?
This eloquent debut novel rings with authenticity as it follows Elizabeth’s journey to taking an active role in her recovery, hoping to get back all that she lost.
Trigger warning for eating disorders and some self-harm.
I had almost zero thoughts about this book before I started it. I’ve always been interested in books that involve treatment centers for some strange reason, so I decided to join the ARC tour for this one. I looked at the length of the book, read the synopsis again, and sighed. I figure this was going to take me forever to read and be super heavy. I’m glad that first impressions can be wrong 😉
Elizabeth is sent away to a treatment facility (that’s actually in her hometown) for her anorexia. The story follows her journey and watches her growth throughout the month-long process. She makes friends, tries to develop better eating habits, and struggles with other things in her life. When she first checks in, she receives mysterious packages that seem to point to her ex-boyfriend, so she tries to figure out who they’re coming from and why.
Storytelling, Setting, and Feels
GUYS. I physically could not put this book down. I started it on a Saturday morning and before I knew it, 350 pages (out of 400) were read. I stopped a couple times to do quick things around the apartment but I preeeetty much finished it in one shot. For a “difficult” book with tough topics, it was so easy to keep reading. I know part of it was my weird fascination with books set in treatment facilities (oh, that just inspired a new read-bait post! 😈) but it was also the characters, writing, and overall premise of the story.
I haven’t read a lot of books dealing with eating disorders. I genuinely can’t even imagine going that kind of suffering and relationship with food. It puts a lot of things into perspective! Elizabeth’s battle felt very real to me; she would make progress and then go backwards and then take a few steps forward again. She’ll pretty much be dealing with those emotions and challenges for the rest of her life.
While we don’t know too much about Elizabeth’s personality and life before heading into the facility, there was some great growth and characterization for her and others in there. We learned about her ex-boyfriend Charlie and her friend group, as well as how the eating disorder started for her. That’s really it.
During her stay at Wallingfield, she befriends her roommate (Lexi), a younger girl (Willa), and an old friend from her town (Margot). Each girl had really interesting backstories and each of their struggles were different. Lexi was in and out of multiple centers, Willa struggled with self-harm, and Margot had family problems/expectations. I loved getting to know those girls, as well as a few others in the center. The story felt real.
I honestly can’t think of anything negative about this book. There really are only two small concerns, I guess? First, I have no idea how well anorexia is represented here. I don’t have experience with eating disorders but I’d assume a lot of this was heavily researched. I trust that the author used some beta readers with experience to confirm its accuracy. From what I personally know (my limited knowledge), it seemed well-done.
The second one is just understanding Elizabeth’s life before going to Wallingfield. I know that once the eating disorder started for her, she was consumed by food and counting calories. It took over her life in so many ways, so she really wasn’t herself anymore. I have mixed feelings on this but can see why this really focused on ONE period of her life. A defining period.
I loved the ending of this book! I don’t want to spoil anything but I have to say, I was expecting some kind of love-fixes-the-disorder thing. That wasn’t the case here. I don’t even want to mention if she enters recovery or not. I just think the ending was perfect and accurate and hopeful.