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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paperweight tells the story of Stephanie "Stevie" Deslisle, who's struggling in the wake of her mother leaving the family and her brother dying in a car crash. She binge-drinks to dull the pain and develops an eating disorder, intending to die on the anniversary of her brother's death. She's forced into a treatment facility, where she needs to decide whether to continue with her plan to kill herself or find a reason to live. Most of the violence is not described graphically, but there are bloody scenes, including a suicide attempt and a serious car crash. Swearing is not frequent but includes "f--k" and "s--t" and their variations, "a--hole," "bitch," and "whore."
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What's the story?
Stevie has an average life in her small Georgia town. Though she doesn't have many friends, she does have her brother, Joshua, who's less than a year older. They're extremely close. When her mother, the family breadwinner, abandons the family, Stevie, Josh, and their father have to move from their beautiful home to a dingy apartment. Her new and only friend, Eden, introduces Stevie to alcohol. Stevie begins to drink heavily to dull the sadness she feels, and she starts to punish her body through bulimia and starvation. When her brother dies in a car crash, Stevie blames herself, and her eating disorder intensifies. Her plan is to die on the anniversary of her brother's death. When her father puts her into a treatment facility in New Mexico, Stevie struggles with recovery. She doesn't want to open up to her therapist or the other girls in treatment because it hurts too much to face what she's been through. As she forces herself to confront her past, she needs to decide which path to take: slow suicide or living with her sadness and guilt.
Is it any good?
PAPERWEIGHT is an engaging and beautifully written tale of a teen girl, Stevie, struggling with guilt and loss after her mother leaves the family and her brother dies. Told in part through flashbacks, the reader puts together the pieces of Stevie's story as she is ready to recall and face them herself. This takes the reader along on Stevie's painful journey. Author Meg Haston provides a fascinating look into the minds of teens dealing with eating disorders. Stevie thinks that not cooperating with staff, not eating, and possessing a red hospital bracelet (worn by the facility's most serious cases) are signs of strength. She views the patients who are making progress as weak. As the other characters in the facility are introduced, we learn that the types of girls in treatment and the reasons for eating disorders vary dramatically.
Stevie's self-pitying attitude is annoying at first, but she grows as a character. Her interaction with other patients pulls her out of her bubble and brings out her compassion and empathy. The depth of emotion Haston describes as Stevie and her fellow patients go through treatment is palpable and at times heartbreaking.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with loss or other sad events. Do you need to be alone to process your emotions? What are your best coping strategies?
Why do you think suicide is a frequent topic in young-adult books?
Do you have any item, place, or ritual in particular that brings you comfort? Why does it help you when you're feeling low?
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