It is estimated that eight to ten million Americans have an eating disorder. However, eating disorders aren’t a glamorous topic that authors want to fictionalize. It can be a divisive topic. Critics will argue that even the most realistic eating disorder narrative is glorifying the illness or inspiring others. However, as someone who struggles daily with disordered eating, I think it is very important for young women and men, especially in their teenage years, see the realities of eating disorders depicted in the books they read. It isn’t enough to campaign for realistic models on the covers of magazines if books for teenagers continue to ignore that 86% of people with eating disorders report that they began before the age of 20. 

With the popularity of books like 13 Reasons Why on the rise, I hope that people will start recognizing the important role that books play in creating a culture of understanding and awareness among teens.  Here are six books ideal for teens that deal with eating disorders. 

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse AndersonLia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss—her life—and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.

Paperweight by Meg HastonSeventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert. Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at meal time, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid. Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn’t plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she, too, will end her life. Paperweight follows seventeen-year-old Stevie’s journey as she struggles not only with a life-threatening eating disorder, but with the question of whether she can ever find absolution for the mistakes of her past…and whether she truly deserves to.

Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Elena DunkleSeventeen-year-old Elena is vanishing. Every day means renewed determination, so every day means fewer calories. This is the story of a girl whose armor against anxiety becomes artillery against herself as she battles on both sides of a lose-lose war in a struggle with anorexia. Told entirely from Elena’s perspective over a five-year period and co-written with her mother, award-winning author Clare B. Dunkle, Elena’s memoir is a fascinating and intimate look at a deadly disease, and a must read for anyone who knows someone suffering from an eating disorder.

Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It by Rachael Rose SteilIt had been hours since I ran at track practice that winter, but I hadn’t bothered to shower, let alone change clothes. No, I didn’t have time for that, because I had found the answer to my prayers. This has to be it. Eat all the fruit you want. Never get fat. Raw. Food. Diet. Rachael Steil clocked in as an All-American collegiate runner; she became a girl clawing for a comeback on a 30-bananas-a-day diet. This year-long struggle with raw food ended when she realized she had to find her self-respect beyond her identity as a successful runner on a perfect diet. Running in Silence opens the door on the secret world of eating disorders. It provides vital insights for those who don’t suffer from this disease and an honest and harrowing personal story for those who do. Steil challenges the stigma of eating disorders, looks past appearance, and dives into the heart of obsession.

Second Star to the Right by Deborah HautzigLeslie Hiller is a bright, attractive, talented teenager who leads a privileged life in New York City. She is also a perfectionist. When Leslie starts to diet, she finds herself becoming obsessed, getting thinner and thinner, until she is forced to realize that her quest for perfection is killing her.

First published in 1981, this groundbreaking novel has been lauded by countless librarians, educators, and teenaged readers. This new edition features an afterword by the author in which she discusses her own struggle with the disease, the difficult road toward recovery, and the lasting effects on her life.

A Trick of the Light by Lois MetzgerTelling 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.

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member