Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nothing by Robin Friedman

Nothing by Robin Friedman
How many boys and men suffer from bulimia? Think about it, really think about it, then guess.

Say the number out loud. Come on, say it.

Now compare your guess to the facts:

At least one million men and boys are currently suffering from some kind of eating disorder. One million.
Approximately ten out of eleven people suffering from eating disorders are female - which means the other one is male.
One out of every four people suffering from anorexia is male.
One out of every eight people suffering from bulimia is male.

Here's another fact: Rarely do books, movies, or TV series depict male characters suffering from eating disorders. Think of all of the stories you've read or shows you've seen in which female characters mention, discuss, or obsess about their weight. Now think of all of the times you've read or seen the same type of stories with guys at the forefront.

Nothing by Robin Friedman, the fictional story of a teenager named Parker, handles the subject of male eating disorders sensitively and realistically.

On the outside, Parker seems to have everything going for him: he's wealthy, he's attractive, he's a track star, he's a journalist, he's active in his community, and he's a good student. However, Parker doesn't like everything that he's doing, and he doesn't like how he looks on the outside. He keeps his emotions locked up inside, where no one can see them. His father wants him to become "a nice Jewish doctor," but that's not Parker's dream. Although his parents have made him see a college consultant regularly since he was a freshman, he's still not sure what he wants to do after high school. When the pressure (from his overbearing father, from his coaches, from his friends, from himself) gets to be too much, he turns to food. After going on shopping sprees at the grocery store, he eats until he's uncomfortably full, then throws up.

Binging and purging takes a toll on both his body and his mind. He feels tired all of the time. He loses weight. He loses muscle. He loses strength. He stops hanging out with his friends. He argues with the girl he likes.

Danielle wishes she got a fraction of the attention Parker gets from their family and classmates. At first, she does not realize that that very attention has pushed Parker to hurt himself. Then, though Parker tries his best to hide what he's doing, Danielle begins to suspect something is wrong. She wonders if she should speak up, then wonders who will listen to her. As other matters at home complicate things, Danielle's narrative offers additional insight into Parker's character as well as their family life.

Nothing is written in first-person narrative, alternating between Parker's point of view and Danielle's point of view. While Parker shares his thoughts in straightforward prose, his younger sister Danielle uses verse. This novel is well-researched and will appeal to both genders, thanks largely to the dual narrative. Hopefully, after reading this book, teenagers who worry that they or someone they know might have an eating disorder will turn to someone for help.

Read the first chapter of Nothing.

In February, I posted about National Eating Disorder Month at my blog and included some notes from the National Eating Disorders Association:
In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 25 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder (NEDA, 2005). This is a disorder with life and death consequences.

Below are some of the symptoms of Eating Disorders identified by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV-TR):
* A person who refuses to maintain body weight that is at or above the normal weight for the age and height of the individual. This would be measured by weight loss leading to the maintenance of body weight less than 85% of the expected weight gain during the period of growth.
* The person shows an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even if the person is under weight.
* The person has a distorted outlook on their body image.

If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or someone you love, please acknowledge them, confide in someone, and start striving for your best self and your best health. There are many people out there who will help you. If you are a teenager, please tell your parents or other adults that you trust. No matter where you are or how old you are, you may call the NEDA Toll-Free Information and Referral Helpline: (800) 931-2237

Contact The National Eating Disorder Association:
Toll-Free Helpline: (800) 931-2237


BookChic said...

Great review, LW!! :) I'll give this book a shot on my own time, though I'm not sure when that will be.

Steph said...

I wasn't keen on this one. Every girl in that book was objectified, Parker himself was poorly constructed as a character, and the plot had one too many gratuitous elements.


A dad with cancer? A boy with bulimia? All in one novel? Really?


Steph said...


A dad with BREAST cancer, I meant.

Little Willow said...

Thanks, Book Chic. Enjoy the book.

Hi Steph! I find that life doesn't give us merely one thing to deal with at a time, but rather, multiple things, be they tragedies, curses, blessings, misfortunes, good fortunes, rewards, pains, gifts, or hardships. Sometimes, good things come in pairs or strings - and sometimes, one misfortune follows another. These things happen. Some would say, "When it rains, it pours," for better or worse.

There are many books (and movies and TV shows) which show both the good and the bad sides of life, with multiple tragedies or obstacles within one story. These events may happen to one family or within a circle of friends, if not directly to one character, perhaps connected or with causal links, perhaps just luck or chance. I don't mind when it happens in stories, when it's believable / plausible.

Amee said...

Ok, well I haven't read this book but I just thought I would comment about the Steph-LW discussion, because I think it is more a general comment about writing in general. Otherwise I wouldn't say anything.

I don't think Steph means bad things can't happen in pairs or such, she means it was a lot for one book. I'm just guessing but I assume when she says that she means for THIS book. Some writers (books, tv, or otherwise) can pull off the a-whole-lotta-crap-is-going-on thing, this one didn't (for her).

Steph said...

Heya LW! I didn't mean that two bad things can't happen at once, I was just surprised two minorities were put together in one family, in one novel. Even if happens in real life, it's too much for fiction -- it reads like a gimmick. (All of this in my opinion, of course.) *Sometimes* pairing two rarities works because it's charming and because it works with the story. Here, it was just over the top.

I did like Danielle's character though. Wasn't keen on the free verse structure, but I liked her.


Little Willow said...

Maybe Danielle will get her own story, someday!

Amberdenise said...

I found Nothing to be a refreshing look into a typically "Girl disease". I thought the author did a great job with it.