A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know this book is a fictional first-person account of a girl's three-week stay in an eating disorders treatment center. It includes detailed descriptions of her bulimic behavior and negative thinking about her body. She also drinks, loses her virginity (which she immediately regrets), and tries to commit suicide.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
With a Purging Partner to keep watch as she gets rid of unwanted donuts, Janie doesn't think it's a big deal that she binges and then throws up. Then she ruins her half-sister's wedding, gets into a huge fight with her \ best friend, and ends up in a treatment center for eating disorders. She's determined not to speak in group counseling sessions with other Barfers and their food rivals, the Starvers.
But when Janie has to create a piece of art representing her most fundamental self, all she comes up with is a black hole. If bulimia and food don't define her, then what does?
Is it any good?
PURGE's irreverent narrator and honest portrayal of bulimia will engage readers who share Janie's family difficulties and negative body attitude. The events leading up to Janie's committal are told through journal entries, with the story itself set almost entirely in a residential treatment center. Two young men are fellow patients, dispelling the idea that eating disorders are a "chick disease."
Janie's recovery seems rather rapid, with a pleased psychologist looking on as Janie confronts her parents and explains a traumatic experience to them. That trauma seems a bit forced, with a "I've been lying to you -- and to myself, in a way" journal nod to the fact it comes out of nowhere. This downplays its significance in a detrimental way. In one counseling session, Janie learns to deal with stress and anger by writing, exercising, and talking, rather than purging (though, to be fair, the doctor does note that Janie will need ongoing therapy). Secondary characters aren't well developed; they seem designed to help show (but not resolve) the variety of reasons young people end up with eating disorders, including incest and weight-obessed parents. The author, who was bulimic herself, includes a list of eating disorder resources.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their attitudes toward food, dieting, and body image. The treatment center psychologist says media plays a part, but "family is equally important -- because we get our first cues about attitudes toward weight and food from our families." What messages have teens received from parents about dieting or body image?
Are meal times peaceful occasions where people really taste their food?
See our advice on Helping Kids See True Beauty