Eating disorder recovery tale is raw and honest.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Janie describes her negative thinking and disordered eating behaviors. She says, "It's not a disease -- it's a diet strategy." She throws up in socks and tosses them out the window to avoid getting caught. She calls the two groups in the treatment center the "Starvers" and the "Barfers." A girl's father tells her, "You're getting a little chunky around the ass." Other residents call a gay boy "Tinkerbell" and "faggot." Janie's parents fight a lot.


One girl dies from anorexia. A resident cuts herself with the end of a paper clip. Janie tries to kill herself by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. Janie's roommate reads a book about recovering from incest.


Missy says she gained weight to keep her stepfather from "looking at me like he wants to jump me." A boy keeps trying to get his hands down Janie's pants the first time they start kissing. Janie swims with Matt wearing a bra and underwear. They have sex, described in some detail. Janie says she "didn't want to, but I did it anyway." It hurt and afterward, she felt "sad and empty and really lonely." A few days later, he flirts with Janie's cousin in front of her at a wedding. She realizes that "what had been so special to me was just another f--k to Matt."


Some cursing, including "crap," "pissed," "hell," "s--tless," "faggot," "f--king," "f--ked up," "bastard," "goddamn," "bitch," "s--thole," "asshole."


Most of the book takes place at a treatment center where there is nothing to buy. A few brand-name mentions, such as iPod, Ben & Jerry's, and Abercrombie. Some magazine titles named in passing and a few designer names used to describe specific outfits and types of clothing.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Janie drinks several beers to "loosen up" while fooling around with Matt. Their parents drink mimosas. Janie drinks five glasses of champagne at a wedding.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Book details

Author:Sarah Darer Littman
Genre:Body Awareness
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:April 1, 2009
Number of pages:236
Read aloud:12
Read alone:12

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Teen, 14 years old Written byJesusFreak09 June 29, 2010
I really really enjoyed this book... as a girl who struggles with depression and weight issues i understand this girls positon i dont purge and im not anorexica i am in fact hypoglecmic and if i dont eat i get very sick.(just to prove i'm not) I love the way the author describes it and the way she shows sex to be a bad thing until you want ot have a child and can raise it. She also shows how one guy you thinnk is your whole life can help you through everything. I regret not knowing what happens to missy and callie and tommy. I felt sad when Helen(anoeroxic) died I also felt frightened i wondered hoe much longer the othere ones would last I really enjoyed the details and loved the entire book ..
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 16 years old Written bybrandi253 October 13, 2010
i want to read this book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Teen, 14 years old Written bysoccer_411 July 20, 2009
What other families should know
Too much sex


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