Publication: June 6th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size 0 obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?
*I am placing a big trigger warning for eating disorders on this book! There is content in this book that could be trigger to some such as discussion of weight, size, calories, unhealthy eating behaviour and anxiety around eating.*
What I Lost is the eating disorder story I have been looking for. Ballard captures the raw intensity of what it's like to live with an ED and what it's like to be in recovery. While some parts were difficult to read I had an amazing time reading Elizabeth's story!
I loved how Alexandra Ballard discussed some of the more medical stuff associated with eating disorders that are usually not mentioned in the media. There is mentions of lanugo, Mitral Valve Prolapse (a heart condition), the girls get bone density tests and much more which was great to see represented.
I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth's journey in recovery, I was cheering her on and loved reading the moments she had a breakthrough as well as feeling connected to her and her experience. I related to Elizabeth and the girls a good bit and while I was reading I felt like I really got to know Elizabeth and was rooting for her. The author captured living with and ED in an authentic manner and I found myself picking out little details here and there thinking 'Yes!!yes that's right! She gets it!' I also loved how Elizabeth goes through a bit of an identity crisis of who she was with/without her anorexia. I felt it was a realistic portrayal of someone with an ED.
While this book is really about Elizabeth's recovery, I did really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the plot of who was sending her the gifts. I was guessing the whole time and coming up with theories as I read which added a fun lighthearted side to a sometimes difficult read.
Elizabeth's friendships with the other girls was also a highlight. Their relationships were definitely complicated because of the situation they were in but they felt real and I liked that. They supported each other and wanted what was best for each other. Some is the side characters fell a bit flat but 2/3 where developed enough for me to care about them
It was also super interesting having the parents as a big part of the story. The impact Elizabeth's parents had on her behaviours and her treatment had a bigger role than I expected. We even got to see how her treatment was effecting them. It is important in a story like this to include families because they are a big part of the recovery process.
What I Lost is different than Paperweight and Wintergirls but a good different, a great different actually. This books are great but in a different way. What I Lost is a more of an uplifting read because this is a story about recovery.
I really enjoyed What I Lost and definitely recommend if you are looking for a book about eating disorders that doesn't shy away from the reality of living with one and has a strong focus on recovery.
Thanks for reading,