By: Liane Shaw
Seventeen-year-old Maddie has always felt a hole in her life, but she has finally found a way to fill it with her quest to mold her body into her ideal, thinnest shape. When she comes across the world of Pro Ana websites, where young people encourage each other in their mission to lose ever more weight, she realizes she is no longer alone. Finally, she has found a place where she is understood.
Maddie quickly becomes addicted to the support and camaraderie she finds on thinandbeautiful.com. Now in a rehab facility where they are trying to "fix" a problem she doesn't think she has, Maddie is forced to keep a diary tracing how she arrived at this point. Angry that she is barred from accessing her online friends, Maddie resists therapy. Only when a tragedy befalls one of her comrades in arms is she shocked into admitting that she does need help.
summary from book
My Rating: 3.5/5
I'm always drawn to books that centre on body image and conflicts that can arise from obsessing about ones appearance because I can relate to such a topic on a highly personal level. I think that for the most part a large majority of us can sympathize with Maddie and her struggle to achieve exterior "perfection" in one way or another with varying degrees of severity. Although reading can be a fantastic form of escapism, allowing you the opportunity to live through the eyes of someone else, it can also be used as an incredible tool that enables you to feel less alone. There is no greater feeling at times than opening up a book and connecting with the protagonist.
I picked up this book on a whim during one of my very many library conquests. I hadn't seen or heard of it before but as I mentioned above was drawn to the concept and thought I would give it a try. I think that Thinandbeautiful.com is an honest story that needed to be told. I always find that when reading contemporary fiction it's often the subjects that are the most difficult to narrate that can end up having the largest and greatest affect on people. There's definitely a lot in Maddie that many individuals may be able to see in themselves either in the present or at one point and time in their lives. I haven't read that many books focused primarily on eating disorders but I thought that the portrayal of such seemed very accurate and well represented. At the very back of the book it mentioned that the author Liane Shaw had dealt personally with an eating disorder and so I have no doubt in my mind that this book is as realistic as it could be.
Maddie as a character was tricky for me. On the one hand I sympathized with her greatly because her life was being overrun by something that she was it great denial about. She kept pushing all those who cared for her the most farther and farther away from her blaming them for being selfish and irrational. I understand that this is all a part of the eating disorder talking, that the hardest part of getting better for many people is the admittance that something is wrong. Yet, that being said, I at times found it difficult to fully like Maddie. She was very vocal and not at all self aware. She believed there was nothing wrong, that she just wanted to be skinny and that it was her body and she could do as she wished. She did not believe she had an eating disorder. Again, this all makes sense in the context of the story given her disorder but at times I just couldn't sympathize which in turn made me feel kind of guilty given her circumstance. I don't think however that I necessarily needed to like Maddie at every given point in the novel. I realize that the frustration I felt as a reader was probably close to that of her friends and family that were being shunned and lied to time and time again. I think with Thinandbeautiful.com it was more important to have a fully realistic and honest protagonist than to have one that was highly likable and pleasant.
The ending of this book took me a little by surprise because I literally had no idea what to expect. Thinandbeautiful.com is set in the present day where Maddie is in a treatment facility receiving help for a disorder that she does not believe she has. The novel deals with Maddie as part of her treatment having to journal about her "life story" having the majority of this book being complied of flash back scenes starting from the very beginning and the events that triggered her eating disorder all interwoven with the present day. Maddie is a very stubborn character and not so open to change which is why I didn't know how this novel would conclude. I will say thought that I thought the author drew everything together in the best possible way.
Overall: Thinandbeautiful.com is a book that I can see reaching out to quite a handful of people. It is a book that I feel deals with an important subject matter and does so quite well. It is definitely honest and doesn't shy away from addressing anything serious or important.