Paperweight

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Paperweight Book Poster Image
Beautifully written tale of teen with eating disorder.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information on eating disorders: how they physically affect the body, what goes through the minds of those who suffer from these types of illnesses, and psychotherapy and medical treatment.

Positive Messages

Don't give up, even in the middle of the worst that life can hand you. Share your emotional burden with others, so they can help you through it. Everyone has demons and struggles; you can't judge what a person is going through based on appearances. The way to make good friends is to be a good friend.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anna is a kind, insightful therapist to Stevie and helps her deal with her issues of abandonment and guilt. Joshua is a loving, caring brother to Stevie. Ashley is a good friend who understands how difficult eating-disorder treatment can be and doesn't judge Stevie when she lashes out.

Violence

Girl falls and hits head on coffee table, sustaining minor injury. Teen self-harms by digging her nails into her skin until she bleeds and squeezes her arm and bites her cheek until the pain becomes unbearable. Teen slaps adult. One teen killed and another injured in serious car crash. Teen discovered bleeding to death after suicide attempt by razor. Some violence not described graphically, including various incidents of self-induced vomiting and physical abuse involving cigarette burns on a girl's back.

Sex

Reference to a young woman being a "horny drunk." Kissing, French-kissing, making out with groping.

Language

Infrequent swearing: "s--t" and "f--k" and their variations, "bulls--t," "a--hole," "p--y," "t-ts," "ass," "God," "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," "goddamned," "hell," "bitch," "whore," "pissed."

Consumerism

Diet Coke, Sprite, and Dr Pepper. Some brands mentioned as examples of consumerism, including Fisher-Price, Splenda, and Disney.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen has drinking problem and drinks to excess frequently, often to the point of blacking out. Teens are served alcohol in a bar and in a restaurant with no ID on several occasions. References to adults having a beer or a bourbon socially. In one scene, a teen is suspected to be stoned. Teen girl drunk at fraternity party. References to kids with fake IDs chugging alcohol as standard behavior. Teen smokes a cigarette. One character slips a sleeping pill into another's drink.

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."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Kid, 12 years old April 2, 2016

A big no-no!

Warning: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE UNDER 13. Paperweight is a well written but very disturbing literary fiction book by Meg Haston. I'm telling you, Meg... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 2, 2017

My favorite book!

This is my favorite book. I'm in middle school and found this in my English teacher's library. I immediatly fell in love with the characters and the w... Continue reading

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?

Book details

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