Book Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

I just finished another amazing book about a girl in an eating disorder treatment center.

17 year old Stevie is stuck in a treatment center in New Mexico. She is sent there by her dad. She feels trapped. All she wants to do is be with her brother on The anniversary. . At first we don’t know what it’s of but soon learn it’s a year to the day of her brother’s death.

Stevie refuses to eat at first. She feels she’s in control by choosing not to participate. Though she tries to ignore her, Anna who she affectionately calls Shrink for the whole of the book, is a very persistent therapist. From the first day she doesn’t let Stevie isolate. She’s always asking Stevie to talk about how she’s feeling particularly as she is pushed farther and ferther into intense flashbacks of her c childhood, her toxic relationship with a mentally ill girl, and the night she’s so desperate to leave behind. She feels for the longest time that she was responsible for her brother’s death. She feels the only way to reach him and find peace is to kill herself.

She tries keeping this from staff hiding away her meds. (how this happens at a treatment center with nurses watching I don’t know.) But more and more Shrink forces her to stay present and not drift off. She prodes her to participate in group exercises and discussions. Though Stevie doesn’t want to make connections at the program she finds a connection with one of her roommates Ashley. At first Ashley seems very put together. As time goes on Stevie realizes that Ashley has big problems of her own. She gets into a relationship with Ashley where she tries to secretly look out for her. Giving her some of the sleeping pills she’s hidden. Again just wow! When things come to a head for Ashley Stevie again feels responsible. But with the help of Anna she’s able to work with these feelings and realize that terrible things happen and it’s often no one’s fault.

Stevie slowly gains insight into her family including her relationship with her self-centered mother, her brother, and a girl who she felt was the only one who could love her, but who ended up being the last straw in things crumbling for everyone.

The therapy sessions are deep and meaningful. I feel that Anna represents a creative very caring therapist. The groups and process around meals sound true to what I’ve read about people in residential treatment.

By the end of the book steve has reached a level of health where she can speak aloud to Josh and face her father in a family therapy session. It’s clear she has a lot of work to do but that she’s reached a level of healing she never felt possible and is on the right track to healing.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with an eating disorder. Descriptions of binges purging and other ED behavior I don’t feel are graphically detailed but I don’t have an eating disorder so I guess people need to monitor themselves. It would also be a good book for anyone with difficult family relationships that have snowballed and lead to deeper issues. Lastly it is a good story describing the guilt one feels after losing a loved one, especially if they feel they’re a part of why that person died.

Am curious what others think. And for anyone who has been in residential if the book accurately portrays eliments of it or not.

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