Paperweight is a raw and touching book, written by Meg Haston.
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped not only in her life, but in her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment facility on the outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the centre is a nightmare come true for Stevie. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtimes, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death – the death that she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she ends her life.
Paperweight was definitely a very interesting and insightful book to me. I’ve never read a book that deals with issues such as eating disorders in this way and in this much depth and I was pleased that I read a book like this one because it allowed me to be transported into the mind of someone with an eating disorder to better understand what it must be like for them. Okay, personal story alert. A few years ago, one of my close friends was struggling with anorexia. She never talked about it to me, not that I’d know what to say anyway. I didn’t understand really what eating disorders were like and how they not only affected one physically, but also emotionally. Reading this book gave me so much insight into what it must be like. How eating disorders an be controlling and that people with eating disorders often feel the need to be in control. I learnt what it must be like to be one person with an eating disorder, and that was both confronting and necessary. I’ve read a lot of books that have characters with depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, and so I feel like I’ve now learnt a lot more about eating disorders and how they affect people, and for that I’m grateful.
This novel was definitely confronting and sometimes even a little scary. A lot of these girls weren’t healthy not only physically, but also mentally. Stevie actually wanted her disorder to kill her because she was so distraught over her brother’s death and felt as though she deserved it. This book tackles issues of eating disorders, depression, betrayal, death and suicide head on and I really appreciate how these topics were written with such raw and brutal honesty. However, I feel as though this book may be triggering for someone who has an eating disorder or is recovering from one, so I advise you to read this book with caution. There were parts of this book that are definitely hard to read, but I like that because I feel as though I owe it to the book and to everyone who has to deal with these things daily to try and understand what it must be like. I’m not saying I’m now an expert on eating disorders or that I understand them completely, but I gained that small slice of insight and I’m so appreciative that this book allowed me to do so.
So I had some issues with Stevie in the beginning. She was incredibly unlikable in the beginning because of the way she treated other people and how she was determined not to make any friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love standoffish, detached and brooding characters, but Stevie initially took this to the extreme. In books, we meet the secondary characters from our protagonist. But what if our protag doesn’t have friends, or if she refuses to make conversation with anyone else? See, this is where my main problem lies. I felt as though I didn’t get introduced to enough characters in the beginning of the novel. Stevie would introduce people as Shrink or Guy Nurse or something and this meant I couldn’t form a bond with anyone else because she was so distanced from them. That meant that I had to spend pretty much all of my time alone with Stevie. And that got a little bit… monotonous, to say the least.
But… Yes, there is a ‘but’. Don’t worry. But Stevie didn’t stay that way for the entire novel. Thank god *wipes brow*. Stevie’s character development is one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever witnessed. I understand that she didn’t want to be in this place and that she didn’t want to get better initially, but by the end of the novel, she was really making an effort. She got to know people. She made some friends. She matures and changes and understands that the people you would die for are in fact the people that you should be living for. Stevie’s relationship with Ashley was cautious, yet so wonderful, and I was so happy to see her really trying in the end. One character that I loved getting to know throughout the book was Anna, or ‘Shrink’, as Stevie called her. I loved the questions Anna asked Stevie and how she really challenged her to push herself, but she was also human. I liked how she had her own flaws and problems and how if she went too far, she would apologise. I enjoyed watching Stevie learn to trust Anna. Anna was such a caring, honest person and I loved reading about her.
The story is also told in flashbacks, which explains how and why Stevie ended up in an eating disorder treatment facility. There was a lot of mystery attached to this and that made Paperweight even more addictive. There was a lot of incentive to finish this book and uncover the mystery of what actually happened to Stevie and her brother. I liked getting to know her brother and her friend Eden. It was great for Stevie to finally realise how toxic some of the people in her life were, and this again added to her character development. At the end of this novel, Stevie was in fact quite inspiring. She showed people that there is always hope and she started to help others a little, which was beautiful to see. She learnt that her eating disorder shouldn’t control her and that she could beat her illness. She learnt to honour her brother by living and realising that she didn’t have to end her life. This was a poignant, touching story about a girl learning to live with her grief and the darkness within her.
The ending of this book was flawless, in my opinion. There was no ‘happily ever after’ or an epilogue that was too perfect to be true. This book ends without you really knowing exactly what Stevie is going to do and what is going to happen next. She might completely recover and work at the facility, helping teenagers like she once was. She might relapse and end back there. Both options are plausible. But that’s life. We don’t always know where we’re going and we can’t read the next chapter before finishing the one we’re on. In that way, the ending was honest, but it also ended on a hopeful note – one that made me think that the sun would shine a little brighter upon Stevie. Cheesy, I know. But that’s me. I’m a cheese-ball, and I’m proud of it. Overall, I’d give Paperweight by Meg Haston a score of 8.5 out of 10. What is your opinion on books that deal with mental illnesses? Have you read any other books that deal with issues such as eating disorders? Any recommendations for books I might like? Let me know down below! 🙂
Thank you to Hot Key Books Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!