What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

What I Lost

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 restrict...

Title:What I Lost
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0374304637
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:400 pages

What I Lost Reviews

  • Laura McNeal
    Oct 17, 2016

    If you've read many novels about anorexia or other narratives in which girls, for various reasons, wind up in institutions, you may be tempted to bypass this book. Or you may be thinking,

    or

    So here's a quick bout of fencing with those concerns:

    You: I JUST WANT TO LIE ON THE COUCH AND DROP OUT OF MY LIFE FOR THREE HOURS.

    There's a love story in this book that d

    If you've read many novels about anorexia or other narratives in which girls, for various reasons, wind up in institutions, you may be tempted to bypass this book. Or you may be thinking,

    or

    So here's a quick bout of fencing with those concerns:

    You: I JUST WANT TO LIE ON THE COUCH AND DROP OUT OF MY LIFE FOR THREE HOURS.

    There's a love story in this book that despite its very realistic American high school setting gives the satisfactions of the classic Jane Austen paradigm (bad suitor, good suitor, mistaken first impressions). And I personally enjoy a story that makes me feel--via the character--that I have a shot at dealing with the mean voices in my head. I get up from the sofa thinking I may not mentally berate myself into pitch-black lifelong misery.

    You: I'M A GUY AND I JUST EAT STUFF. END OF THOUGHT PROCESS.

    Right. Please mind-meld with me. It's true that you are not, on the surface, a lot like Elizabeth. But you might like her if you give her a chance. And if you've ever loved someone who seemed incomprehensibly ambivalent about eating (I'm guessing that's 90 percent of American women), read this book (removing the cover for obvious reasons).

    You: I'M AN ADULT AND EASILY IRRITATED BY THE ADULTS IN YA FICTION.

    I hear you. But I loved the father in this book, and the portrait of the mother adds a new dimension to the anorexia story. If you've read "The Fat Girl" by Andre Dubus, you've seen this painful family dynamic before, but it's nice to see it treated at length for the audience most at risk and most likely to see parents harshly. As a mother who never gets through an hour of the day without worrying that I'm to blame for any problems my kids have, I was troubled and intrigued by the mother-daughter conflict in this book.

    You: I WISH I DIDN'T FEEL MILD TO INTENSE REGRET EVERY TIME I EAT A HIGH-CALORIE FOOD.

    Yeah, I know. Go ahead and eat that last broken ingot of Hershey's and head to the couch with Elizabeth.

  • Emma Giordano
    Jul 01, 2017

    I seriously loved this book so so much.

    may be one of my new favorite books of all time. This read was wholeheartedly honest, informational, authentic, raw, and powerful.

    I'm going to place a trigger warning for eating disorders on this book, as well as any of my discussions about this book. While I sincerely love this book, I absolutely think it contains some content that could be triggering to those suffering from similar diseases. There's talk of weight, sizes, calories, a lot o

    I seriously loved this book so so much.

    may be one of my new favorite books of all time. This read was wholeheartedly honest, informational, authentic, raw, and powerful.

    I'm going to place a trigger warning for eating disorders on this book, as well as any of my discussions about this book. While I sincerely love this book, I absolutely think it contains some content that could be triggering to those suffering from similar diseases. There's talk of weight, sizes, calories, a lot of food anxiety, and unhealthy patterns of behavior in regard to food that may be harmful to those without strong recovery or accessible support services. I am not personally one to automatically rule a book out as bad or harmful for triggering content, but if you think you may be upset by anything I previously mentioned, I'd recommend putting your mental health first and holding off until you're in a better mindset.

    I'm also going to be posting a spoiler free review on my channel because damn, do I want to gush about this book, so I'll reserve some of my thoughts for that review.

    (Yes I say this about almost every mental health book I read BUT I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME.)

    is a story of recovery. We follow Elizabeth, a teen dealing with anorexia, as she spend roughly 40 days in an inpatient center for people with eating disorders. Though we are obviously exposed to very raw moments of Elizabeth's ED as she is still struggling with her illness, this book does a fantastic job of staying truthful to the experience of having an ED while making sure the concept of recovery is the main message of the story. Within the struggle and difficulty of being treated for such a disorder, there are so many moments of breakthrough, enlightenment, and hope within the pages of this book that I could not be happier. Despite the triggering content, I can say with confidence this is the best book about eating disorder recovery on the market.

    One of my favorite parts of the novel is how much medical and accurate information about eating disorders is incorporated naturally into this book. The first sentence mentions lanugo, there's talk of osteopenia/osteoperosis, mitral valve prolapse, amenorrhea, orthostatic hypotension, current gene research for EDs, IT'S SO FREAKING INFORMATIVE. I'm so pleased that the author went such a huge mile ahead of other books about EDs to actually be educational in all aspects of the illness. I'll be dammed if anyone considers this book to be glorifying eating disorders; It really shows all the dangers and consequences of suffering from one, yet continually expresses how recovery is possible.

    As a fellow recovering anorexic, I cannot express how accurate this book was to my own experiences. Though I was never in inpatient specifically for my ED so I can't speak directly about Elizabeth's experiences in treatment, her thoughts were so on point. There are passages that I could relate to as a teen entering recovery for the first time, and there are thoughts that still persist today that made me feel extremely validated. I'm so ecstatic about the representation in this novel and I truly hope other people with similar experiences will feel the same.

    Also, this is for sure not a love-cure novel. Romance is absolutely not a major theme in this book. Though Elizabeth has recently gone through a break up and there is a future love interest involved in the story, Elizabeth outright says she needs to focus on her recovery before getting involved with anyone which is a BIG STEP.

    There are only a few things that fell short for me in this book.

    #1. I wish there was a BIT more diversity. The only thing this book was lacking in was intersectionality regarding eating disorders; I wish we had a few more POC or people of various sexualities/genders to account for the individual experiences of people with EDs within other populations (though the lack of male patients is addressed, as well as how important the rising rate of men with EDS is, so on that front, I'm pleased).

    #2. THE ENDING WAS SO ABRUPT. The length of this book is definitely satisfying and the ending does leave off on a good note, but I was not expecting it to end where it was. I wish we had just a few more chapters to make the ending a bit more concrete or feel a bit more finished. I think even an epilogue set a few months into the future to signify the growth of Elizabeth, her friends and Wallingfield, and even her mother, would have been such an asset. I can't complain too much as the final message is exactly what I would have wanted.

    Ultimately, this book was fabulous. I couldn't be happier with the portrayal of a teen with anorexia. It has so many perks above other books about EDs and I am so blessed to have read this book. Keeping in mind the trigger warnings I expressed earlier, I do think

    no matter when that is, this is a book that a lot of individuals could resonate with. If someone

    and ED was looking to gain a better understanding about what it is like to have anorexia, I'd recommend

    above all else for it's flawless execution of authenticity, medical accuracy, and truth. This book is an absolute gem and I would highly recommend it.

  • Destiny ➳ Howling Libraries
    Jun 29, 2017

    ---

    As someone who has struggled most of my life with disordered eating, I am a total sucker for contemporaries about EDs. They can be triggering when done poorly, but when done well, these books can be incredibly cathartic for me, so when I read the synopsis on this book, I knew it was right up my alley.

    This book offers an incredibly realistic view of EDs. It starts off by explaining how people suffering from anorexia can develop

    , a downy coating of hair on their body, and I was hooked from that moment because it told me that Ballard was willing to face the side of EDs that most authors won't touch, or don't know about. It continues to tackle anorexia and other EDs in a very straightforward and honest method, which I appreciated

    much.

    The narrator is likable, and her thought processes made sense to me. I was able to relate to her, and I liked that she didn't insist on shutting everyone out and being a stereotypical "mean girl" MC like we see

    often in books about ED treatment.

    The side characters are complex and enjoyable, and I felt real, legitimate empathy for some of them. On the other hand, Elizabeth's mother is

    but pitiable, and I found myself conflicted on my feelings for her (in a good way!); on the one hand, she was horrible to her daughter, but on the other hand, she was struggling as well, and I couldn't discount that.

    The secret admirer plot felt like an afterthought, because even though it's mentioned in the synopsis, I didn't feel like it was really the forefront of the story? I also gathered that it was supposed to feel like this big puzzle with a surprise ending, but it really just wasn't fleshed out enough for me to care very strongly about it, so I didn't feel much of anything either way when the big reveal happened.

    All in all, this book wasn't the most extraordinary YA contemporary I'd ever picked up, but it

    my favorite ED-related book that I've read, so 4/5 stars feels like a really fair rating to me. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA contemporaries about tough topics like EDs and mental illness, but I would warn caution to anyone who may be triggered by in-depth conversations regarding disordered eating, body dysmorphia, parental verbal abuse, or mental illness.

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