Perfect by Natasha Friend
“Perfect” is about a 13 year old adolescent girl named Isabelle Lee whose father passed away suddenly for unmentioned reasons two years ago, and who subsequently gained an eating disorder, bulimia, in order to cope with his loss.
She begins by attending a group in a nearby hospital where she is surprised to find the most popular and seemingly perfect girl in school also attends the same group. The popular girl, Ashley, also has bulimia as it’s revealed that she comes from a breaking home with her parents getting a divorce, being loaded with money but not enough love and true nurturing beyond that.
Over time, Ashley and Isabelle become friends even more, and they have a habit of rooting each other on with their bulimia, often binging and purging together.
As Isabelle progresses through group, and begins meeting one on one with the group leader, she slowly comes out of her shell to discuss her father, as her mother has still been grieving and likely developed a depression that was triggered after the loss. Their mother, Isabelle has a little sister named April, has trouble getting out of bed or taking care of them and often lies to herself that she and they and everything is “fine”.
Over time, with Isabelle talking about her father and going through his loss, they’re able to bring their mother into this healing sun.
Isabelle makes progress in treatment and actually says no to Ashley once about purging. In the end, Ashley gives her some unknown gift and Isabelle is, we’re led to believe, continuing forwards in recovery.
Personally, while I enjoyed this book and it was a simple read, I feel it could benefit from being longer to really describe and engage the reader in the struggle of getting through an eating disorder and healing from it. At this length, I just don’t feel this book covered that ground, and it left out the emotional connection with myself and the struggle these kids were having with their EDs. In fact, their snarky attitude was more annoying than relatable. They put up a fight for a while about getting treatment for their EDs and couldn’t use perspective to understand their illness appropriately. However, I think the book did nail the ED voice pretty well, again, it just wasn’t further developed. I also assumed this book would involve more than one ED, but only bulimia was really mentioned, which is a bit disappointed.
I also think with this short length, that Isabelle recovered pretty quickly for a 2 year behavior that was upheld. I feel like some lapses and relapses would be more true of the recovery process rather than having her, albeit gradually, go up and up and up. It’s just not realistic, and I don’t think I’d recommend this to someone who is struggling deeply with an ED.
That is why I only recommend this as a 4/5. For a simpler introduction to the topic it is good, however for further depth I wouldn’t recommend it. See below, however, for my further thoughts on how this book was a good read and why I chose to read it.
QUOTES + MY THOUGHTS:
- “In case you haven’t noticed, fine is my mother’s favorite word. I’m fine, we’re fine, everything’s fine” – p. 39
We already know how I feel about the word ‘fine’ from a previous book review. 😉 It’s quite the theme in this book, so I’ll mention more of my thoughts later!
2. “Emotions work the same way. If you don’t find a way to let those emotions out, whatever they are–anger, fear, sadness–you can start to feel like you’re going to explode. Writing is a way to let some of the air out of your balloon before you pop” – p. 43
This distinctly reminds me of two examples from my third hospitalization about both resiliency and keeping emotions inside. If you’d like, I could do a photo series (it involves some concrete examples) about them to inform you guys about what I can remember, using my old notes as a guide. 🙂 That’ll be a nice project one day. We’ll see as we get through the art therapy series from inpatient #2, that we have lots of room to expand to other series from other inpatient units/notes I have. 🙂 YAY!
3. “Trish started telling us how the first battle we were going to have to learn to fight was our voice of negativity” – p. 46
I like this concept. I also think it’s relatable to other issues beyond EDs, but is of course especially workable with EDs.
The main reason I got this book was to get some refresher course about EDs as the fanfiction I am writing involves the Avengers with different mental health issues plowing towards recovery and with Loki suffering from anorexia (among other things). I have a pretty good idea about EDs, but I thought this book might help give me a good refresher course. While it’s mainly about bulimia, it still has some golden nuggets in it for what I could use for the eventual treatment process. So, this is one that stood out to me, as does the next one.
4. “The trick is to replace the voice of negativity with something that makes you feel good rather than bad. Instead of beating yourself up all the time, you can build yourself up by changing the dialogue in your head” – p/ 46
I don’t know how effective this may be with EDs, but I’m familiar with the concept when it comes to CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and it also reminds me of some basic body positivity practices that exist out there. There’s also the concept of naming your illness as something separate from you and imagining that separate entity telling you the stuff it tells you. There’s all sorts of creative ways one can take with that initiative!
5. “First, one of you will say out loud something that your voice of negativity often says to you, like, ‘you look fat’ or ‘you shouldn’t eat that’. Something along those lines. Then, the other one of you will replace that voice with something positive, something encouraging” – p. 47
Again, a continuation of the concept, with examples of what that ED voice can say. I’m picking up some ideas I can use into the fanfic I’m writing.
6. “Pretty soon a person gets tired of saying I’m fine. We’re fine. No, thanks, I’m not really hungry. So you stop going over to people’s houses. Then, after a while, everyone stops asking how you are” – p. 82
Plot bunnies. All of them.
7. “Trish wants us to write in [our journals] at home, whenever we feel what she calls HALT feelings, which means hungry, angry, lonely or tired” – p. 96-97
Has anyone ever heard of this actually used before? I’m definitely curious. I gotta brush up on ED treatments and styles and language for when I get to that part of my fanfic.
8. “I was glad to get off the phone with Aunt Weezy. She asks too many questions” – p. 106
I felt this will be applicable to my fanfic as Loki will likely face a lot of questions and suspicion from his family and those around him as they start noticing his anorexia’s behavior. Unfortunately, I already have an idea that he’ll avoid it pretty expertly. The Muse just knows.
Also, can I just say I’m a tiny bit … embarrassed that my fanfic is about these tough issues? I’ve seen other people write about the characters with this concept before, and it wasn’t entirely my first choice, but, it just happened. One day, the Muse hit me and I knew I was going to be writing about some Avengers and Loki with mental health issues. I kinda love it though. I’m hoping that around Chapter 20 I’ll start introducing the other Avengers. I hope you guys don’t mind the topic of it, although, I can’t do much about it now! Fanfic is interesting like that, where the characters made by other people take you and in what trials they go through in your mind’s eye. I have my 9th chapter to continue working on this week. :3 Or start, I mean, I haven’t started it yet either XD
9. “The idea is for you to be doing the talking, which I know is hard. Talking about feelings can be difficult, and sometimes scary, especially if you’re not used to doing it. But let’s say that this is a safe place for you to share those feelings. Okay? Let’s say that this office is a safe place, and I am a person, you can trust. What do you say?” – p. 115
So, as per usual in this post, I’m going to keep talking about that fanfic of mine, and maybe even drop some ideas I have for it here, too.
So, what I do like about this book is that I felt it makes my fanfic and the Recovery journey Loki is going to go upon not have to require years of struggling. Like, in this book Isabelle had her ED for at least two years, but she still moved pretty well into Recovery. That makes me feel better than for the fanfic’s timeline, it’s also okay that Loki’s not going to have dealt with his ED for very long, but will still eventually move into the Recovery process.
It’s gonna take hard work for him though, and a lot of stuff he’s not ready yet to open up to. For instance, I feel Odin would pose as a difficult member of the family towards his Recovery. Probably being ignorant and non-compliant at least at the start. Frigga, his mother, will be supportive but feeling helpless and lost as how to help him. And Thor, he will also take some time, too. It’s going to be a family under turmoil, trying to understand how to adapt to a child going through difficult times that are beyond what those parent books prep you for.
I also now get to think about how Loki will be in therapy. I bet he’s gonna hate his first therapist. And then with his next one, maybe he’ll have to change with them too. But there will be one who he doesn’t like right away but does wind up getting along with.
Loki also suffers from underlying depression, and has some traits of perfectionism that do him in when it comes to his anorexia. In my story, that is.
I’m planning that in the next few chapters, Loki is going to come down with a cold, and then with next chapters after that, he’s going to run deeper into the ground with his ED and depression is going to kick up a notch and he won’t be able to do his schoolwork and then he’ll get suicidal, too. That’s how he winds up in the hospital that first time, and that’s where he winds up meeting Steve!
I’m thinking that Steve Rogers (Captain America) is going to be living with schizoaffective disorder as I don’t think that’s covered much and I certainly only know very little about it. Then he’ll meet Tony Stark (Iron Man) who is dealing with substance abuse issues. And eventually Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Natasha Romanov (Black Widow) who are friends supporting the others. And Bruce Banner (Hulk) who may have a combination of PTSD and OCD. He’s still a little iffy on that.
But yeah, they’ll wind up becoming friends and they’ll influence Loki to go towards Recovery, while part of him will still think about Regression. Follow? 🙂
10. “The progress shows in your decision to try something else first. You were feeling badly and what did you do? You wrote in your journal. You put your feelings down on paper. Okay, so you threw up afterward. But next time, maybe you won’t. Next time, maybe the writing will be enough” – p. 137
I like this concept. 🙂 It’s a good applicator to other types of treatment and Recovery, too.
11. “Sometimes when you have a great idea you want to keep it to yourself for a while. You want to take your time with it” – p/ 143
Or sometimes you’re like me and you blog it out into the world to keep up with your plot line so if you take a month and a half break, you don’t wind up forgetting where you were going with it. 😀 😀 😀
But some accomplishments or things in the works? Those are cool things to sit on like an egg for a while before they hatch for everybody else to see 😉
12. “[We met from] ‘Group. We have the same eating disorder.’ [everyone stares at Isabelle] ‘What? It’s true.’ Wasn’t it time someone started telling the truth around here? Even if the truth stinks?” – p/ 149
I feel like this will be a critical part of Loki’s Recovery, and it’s gonna be tough for him. 😦
13. “I did what Trish says is the only thing anyone can do. I listened” – p. 151
Love this concept. 🙂
14. “I could hear the sigh on the other end like this was a big relief. It’s amazing how people will just believe you when you say ‘everything’s fine’ like saying it makes it true” – p/ 155
You know what I’m gonna refer to here 😉
15. “Tears running down her face, buckets of them. I watched as she walked slowly across the room and sat down at the table. She didn’t say a word, but she didn’t have to. It was all right there” – p. 162
I like the idea of how our behavior, how we act and the emotions going through us, can say everything our voice cannot echo to say.
16. “The more you talk, the easier it gets” – p. 169
You grow accustomed to it. ❤ Getting your thoughts or worries or emotions out of you can be freedom. So, get them out there, however you can (but in a way that is safe for you and others!!!)
SO! That’s all folks. That was this book’s review and a bunch of my ideas and plot for my own fanfic. 🙂
Hoped you all enjoyed!! I’ve got that Procrastination book to read still or one about BPD or a novel…not sure where I’ll be sliding off to this week.
However, I hope you have a fabulous week and I shall see ye all again soon!
Stay safe! ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤