First of all, I just want to put a trigger warning on this book for anyone who suffers with an eating disorder or self harms. You might want to proceed with caution.
Books about eating disorders are sort of like when you see a really disturbing image on the telly, and you don’t want to look but you just can’t stop yourself. I’ve suffered from anorexia for around 5 years now, and spent 2 of those years in a psychiatric hospital, and while I’m better and eating now, I still get triggered really easily. So reading this book? Not my greatest idea.
I just want to start off by saying that I think Melissa de la Cruz meant well. I think she tried her hardest to write a book about eating disorders (which are incredibly difficult to write about, by the way. Even I struggle to explain what it’s like living with it on a daily basis), but it just…I don’t think it worked, and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that books like this that detail the lives of eating disorder sufferers are dangerous in the wrong hands.
I don’t want to talk about me and my experiences a load (this is a book review, not a Kate review), but I just want to explain where I’m coming from. When I was at my worst, at the beginning of my hospital admission, I would do anything to get rid of a few calories. I hid food in every single place possible and constantly had food crumbs in my bra. I was always looking for new ways to lose weight, whether that be from the pro-ana websites, or from books like Wintergirls, which is possibly the most dangerous and triggering ED book ever written. So the detail in which Melissa goes into when describing how Olivia purges…it’s not good. And it’s something that vulnerable, anorexia-consumed Kate would have lapped up.
The above comment is also relevant to recent films like To The Bone. It’s dangerous. Yes, awareness needs to be spread. But I think the better way to spread awareness is in the form of memoirs or autobiographies, from people who know what it’s like and can offer wisdom and encouragement for coming through the other side; people whose job is to inform, and not just entertain people for a few hours in the form of a YA book.
Another thing I didn’t like about Someone to Love was how Olivia’s bulimia was brushed off by nearly everyone. Nobody seemed to take it seriously. Olivia’s mother knew that she had an eating disorder, but what did she do? Nothing. She let her daughter spiral out of control, not even talking to her daughter about it. When Olivia’s dad finds out about her ED, he asks her mother if she knew what was going on and she said:
“Yes, it’s very common among teenage girls.”
I’m going to shout it so the people at the back can hear; EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT TEENAGE GIRL PHASES. They do not discriminate, they are SERIOUS, and should NOT be ignored and allowed to sort themselves out. They are fucking terrifying, and isolating, and they aren’t taken seriously enough.
There’s one other thing that I want to bring to attention: when Olivia is getting help at the end of the book, her doctor confides to Olivia she herself used to cut herself. And you know what she said? She said that she was a much “more violent cutter” than Olivia.
That is basically saying that Olivia’s problem isn’t as serious as hers was. Self harm can easily be turned into a competition, and you can also easily convince yourself that you don’t have a self harm problem by telling yourself that others do it more severely than you. I know. Believe me.
Deep breath, Kate. Deep breath.
So, the writing? The characters? Yeah, they were decent. Olivia irritated me a lot in the end, but I could also relate to her a lot when she was comparing herself to other girls. That is something that was realistic; Olivia’s fascination with other girls, and her struggle to not dislike them because they were skinnier than her. That is something that ED patients struggle with a lot; when I was first admitted to the ED ward, I was in a wheelchair, and nobody spoke to me because I was the skinniest person there. And that’s not me or my illness blowing my own trumpet, that’s literally what I was told by the other patients, and the nurses. Don’t get me wrong, those girls are lovely and I still speak with them. But eating disorders are nasty, manipulative things.
The other characters (minus Sam) really irritated me at one point or another, but not enough that I need to start another essay about them.
I’m going to wrap this review up because it’s ridiculously long, but I needed to vent. I appreciate Melissa taking on a really difficult subject, but there were a lot of things that just didn’t ring true for me. I obviously don’t speak for everyone; there will probably be some ED recovered patients who like this book. I personally, though, didn’t.
*I received an e-arc via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*