Laura L. Smith writes a very truthful picture of a shifted focus that has effected many teenage girls. Her young adult novel centers around Melissa Rollins, a freshman striving to be on the leadership of her dance team. With school and practice and the up and down social life she begins to use food, and the lack of it, to control her world.
There are tons of books out there for and about teens and their struggles with eating disorders and weight related concerns. Skinny stands out from the crowd in that it addresses a disorder that many other books ignore. O.C.D. or obsessive compulsive disorder is often the core root of eating disorders. It’s like focus on steroids. Try as she might she can’t ever seem to escape the agonizing thoughts that always center around the same issue. These overactive thoughts quickly morph into behaviors that become habitual and more dangerous as time progresses. It’s not always a desire to be thin or derived from media images of Hollywood twigs. Sometimes it’s just a control strategy for teens and adults who feel off balance and crave some power over themselves, even if it is counterproductive.
Another thing I love about Skinny is that it doesn’t glamorize the choices Melissa is making in the story. With Anorexia and Bulimia such a buzz topic in teen circles it is easy to collect strategies from these well meaning books. Some teenagers will read these types of books like a manual for how to “do it better”. Lisa L. Smith focuses on the thoughts going on in Melissa’s head and what is driving her to make these dangerous choices, rather than focusing on the action itself and the methods of accomplishing it.
Melissa is a Christian. She loves God very much, but her understanding is clouded. She journals her prayers and reads the Word. She goes to church and she’s on her way to heaven, but this struggle is warring inside of her. Who can’t relate to that battle, right?
I can relate to Melissa. As a christian teenager I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. My behavior back then looked like an eating disorder. It was an easy fit. As I got older I got help for the eating disorder. I put on weight and everyone was happy. Then another compulsion surfaced. The compulsion for cleanliness. The deep focus on my house and the aesthetic beauty of my world began to take over my mind. What I really had was O.C.D. My eating, like with Melissa, was a symptom of my need to control. I had to learn to surrender my need to control over to God. It’s still a work in progress.
I am so thankful that there is a writer like Lisa L. Smith who is brave enough to call it what it is and to even address that it doesn’t “go away” it’s an on going struggle. It’s a struggle worth fighting and it can be helped.
Skinny is a quick read and a worthy book that I would happily recommend to teenagers. You can read more about it here. Skinny is on sale at the NavPress site for $10.39.