Sunday, 29 July 2018

Mental Illness in YA Month Reading List: YA Novels Featuring Boys With Eating Disorders

Mental Illness in YA Month

Yesterday, I reviewed The Art of Starving by Sam J. Smith, about Matt, a guy with an eating disorder. I want to share a quote with you from the book again, because I think it's important to think about.
'Thanks to the magic of Afterschool Specials, I know that a disconnect between what I see and what others see is a very banal aspect of eating disorders. Here is the thing--what I have is not an eating disorder. I'm pretty sure boys can't even get eating disorders. Lord knows there aren't any afterschool specials about it.' (p12)
Just let that sink in for a second. 'I'm pretty sure boys can't even get eating disorders.' Of course boys can, it's just that society doesn't talk about it. To quote the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA):
"Despite the stereotype that eating disorders only occur in women, about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is male. [...] In the United States alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives. But due in large part to cultural bias, they are much less likely to seek treatment for their eating disorder. The good news is that once a man finds help, they show similar responses to treatment as women. Several factors lead to men and boys being under- and undiagnosed for an eating disorder. Men can face a double stigma, for having a disorder characterized as feminine or gay and for seeking psychological help. Additionally, assessment tests with language geared to women and girls have led to misconceptions about the nature of disordered eating in men." From NEDA's website.
We need to have more conversations around eating disorders in men and boys, and so we need more YA novels featuring teen boys who have eating disorders. As well as The Art of Starving and Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu, here are a some more novels featuring boys with eating disorders I discovered when doing research.

Panther by David Owen
Panther by David Owen

Life isn’t going terribly well for Derrick; he’s become severely overweight, his only friend has turned on him, he’s hopelessly in love with a girl way out of his league, and it’s all because of his sister. Her depression, and its grip on his family, is tearing his life apart. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick resolves to try and capture it. Surely if he can find a way to tame this beast, he’ll be able to stop everything at home from spiraling towards disaster?

Panther is a bold and emotionally powerful novel that deals candidly with the effects of depression on those who suffer from it, and those who suffer alongside them.
From Goodreads.

The description doesn't mention it, but Derrick binge eats. Read my review.

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Nothing by Robin Friedman
Nothing by Robin Friedman

"Sometimes trees can look healthy on the outside, but actually be dying inside. These trees fall unexpectedly during a storm."

For high school senior Parker Rabinowitz, anything less than success is a failure. A dropped extracurricular, a C on a calc quiz, a non-Jewish shiksa girlfriend--one misstep, and his meticulously constructed life splinters and collapses. The countdown to HYP (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) has begun, and he will stay focused. That's why he has to keep it a secret. The pocketful of breath mints. The weird smell in the bathroom. He can't tell his achievement-obsessed father. He can't tell his hired college consultant. And he certainly can't tell Julianne, the "vision of hotness" he so desperately wants to love. Only Parker's little sister Danielle seems to notice that he's withering away. But the thunder of praise surrounding Parker and his accomplishments reduces her voice to broken poetry: I can't breathe when my brother's around because I feel smothered, blank and faded.
From Goodreads.

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A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger
A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger

Telling a story of a rarely recognized segment of eating disorder sufferers—young men—A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger is a book for fans of the complex characters and emotional truths in Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.

Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they're getting confusing at school. He's losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he's a mess. Then there's a voice in his head. A friend, who's trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that's holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.
From Goodreads.

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Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan
Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan

Sixteen-year-old Jack, nicknamed "Bones," won't eat. His roommate in the eating disorder ward has the opposite problem and proudly goes by the nickname "Lard." They become friends despite Bones's initial reluctance. When Bones meets Alice, a dangerously thin dancer who loves to break the rules, he lets his guard down even more. Soon Bones is so obsessed with Alice that he's willing to risk everything–even his recovery. From Goodreads.

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The majority of these books are written by women rather than men. It's a little disappointing that there aren't more #OwnVoices novels written by men who have had eating disorders. However, coming Spring next year, we have an #OwnVoices YA/MG novel from Samuel Pollen, one I'm really excited for.

The Year I Didn't Eat by Samuel Pollen
The Year I Didn't Eat by Samuel Pollen

This heartfelt, captivating novel chronicles a year in the life of 14-year-old Max as he struggles with anorexia.

Dear Ana,

Some days are normal. Some days, everything is OK, and I eat three square meals, pretty much, even if those squares are ridiculously small squares.

Some days, I can almost pretend there's nothing wrong.

Fourteen-year-old Max doesn't like to eat, and the only one he can confess his true feelings to is Ana---also known as his eating disorder, anorexia. In a journal that his therapist makes him keep, he tells Ana his unfiltered thoughts and fears while also keeping track of his food intake. But Ana's presence has leapt off the page and into his head, as she feeds upon all of his fears and amplifies them.

When Max's older brother Robin gives him a geocache box, it becomes a safe place where Max stores his journal, but someone finds it and starts writing to him, signing it with "E." Is it a joke? Could it be the new girl at school, Evie, who has taken an interest in Max? Although Max is unsure of the secret writer's identity, he takes comfort in the words that appear in his journal as they continually confide in one another about their problems.

As Max's eating disorder intensifies, his family unit fractures. His parents and brother are stressed and strained as they attempt to deal with the elephant in the room. When Robin leaves home, Max is left with two parents who are on the verge of splitting up. Max thought he could handle his anorexia, but as time goes on, he feels himself losing any semblance of control.

Will anorexia continue to rule Max's life, or will he be able to find a way to live around his eating disorder?

The Year I Didn't Eat is an unforgettable novel that is haunting, moving, and inspiring.
From Goodreads.

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Do you know of any other YA novels that feature boys with eating disorders? If so, please do mention them in the comments, and I'll add them to the list!

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