"I became bulimic at the age of nine, anorexic at the age of fifteen. I couldn’t decide between the two and veered back and forth from one to the other until I was twenty, and now, at twenty-three, I am an interesting creature, an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. My weight has ranged over the past thirteen years from 135 pounds to 52, inching up and then plummeting back down . I have gotten “well,” then “sick,” then “well,” then “sicker,” and so on up to now; I am considered “moderately improved,” “psychologically stabilized, behaviorally disordered,” “prone to habitual relapse.” I have been hospitalized six times, institutionalized once, had endless hours of therapy, been tested and observed and diagnosed and pigeonholed and poked and prodded and fed and weighed for so long that I have begun to feel like a laboratory rat."
- Marya Hornbacher
in Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

First things first: if you struggle with an eating disorder in any degree of seriousness, please, PLEASE stay away from this book. At best, it will not do you any good; at worst it is the definition of triggering. There is a reason the author's name shows up on pro-ana and pro-mia websites.

That said, I do recommend Wasted to mature readers who want to better understand the mindset and experiences of an eating disordered person. Hornbacher's vivid narration makes it all too real.

I can understand why it could look like just another book capitalizing on our society's love for intimate confessions of deep problems, one of those books that pleases readers by shocking and horrifying them. Maybe some people do pick it up looking for that kind of a read. Her insights and strangely graceful style of writing, even when dealing with such an ugly subject, make it more than that, though.

It's worth noting that it is, as it says, a memoir of her disorders - it doesn't touch much on her recovery, though there is an afterword. My only real beef with it is that the section detailing her childhod was a bit tiresome and confusing, and felt rather self-indulgent. As a whole though, Wasted is mostly just honest to the point of being reckless of the reader's comfort, which I can't say I think is a bad quality in a book.

To say Wasted is absorbing would be an understatement - reading it is like being caught by a breaking wave. It crashes over your head and pulls you down into the dim, disorienting, airless underwater of eating disorders. It's not a fun read, but the anoretic and bulimic speak to us about their disorders too rarely and urgently to be ignored.

Grade: B+

N.B. Wasted also contains strong language and deals to a much lesser extent with drug use and sexual promiscuity.

I posted another quote from this book last Tuesday.


Sarah Louise 7/12/2008 6:56 AM  

"honest to the point of being reckless of the reader's comfort, which I can't say I think is a bad quality in a book."

you have a way with words. I stay away from books like this, esp on the topic of bipolar, as yes, they are FULL of triggers. Thanks for mentioning that in your "review."

I am grateful for people that are healthy enough to be able to read books like this. Thank you for being one of them in my life.


Cuileann 7/12/2008 11:27 AM  

Thank you and you're welcome. :) Funny thing, the author actually found out after writing this book that she has bipolar disorder (and then wrote another book on that subject)...it was a little weird reading the book and knowing that, while she had written it unaware of the fact.

Obviously, I survived this book, but to be honest it wasn't too good for me. :/

Christy 7/16/2008 10:21 PM  

Hmm. Seems like a pretty interesting book. I might just have to read it. I read a similar book that didn't have good outcome of a girl with an eating disorder. The book was called Perfect. The book doesn't discourage eating disorders. To me, it almost encourages them.

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