Hi, everybody, and welcome to another guest post for Shattering Stigmas 4.0. Today, the lovely Sophie is here to review What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard, a YA contemporary with eating disorder rep. Be sure to check out the masterlist of Shattering Stigmas 4.0 posts so that you don’t miss any content from our five wonderful hosts. Without further ado, let’s get into the review!
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?
What I Lost follows Elizabeth, a girl just like me, just like any other, who struggled with her body image for a really long time. Unlike many other novels that I’ve read which featured characters with mental illness, this is not one of those stories which allow you to explore the experiences and feelings of someone living a different reality in a way that still makes you feel detached from them.
What I Lost is very much the raw, unabashed and unafraid book that gives you a glimpse of what having anorexia is like, while also proving that it doesn’t stem out of nowhere and that a lot of the emotions could be very similar to those that all teenagers at some point of their lives feel.
I truly believe that anyone who reads it will be able to see a part of themselves in it, many times recognizing thought spirals and insecurities that they can genuinely understand. So if this book takes you on such a real and painful journey, why would you want to read it? My personal answer to this is because you learn about loving yourself and your body just as much as the main character. Reading this book enabled me to understand what my own struggles were, what mental blocks I dealt with in relation to who I am, and it also taught me so much about the disorder itself.
It was very important to me because it made me reflect, and because it was educating. Although many books about this topic already exist, this one shed a huge light on the lesser-known symptoms and consequences, the recovery process, and ultimately, the extremely real and heartfelt internal monologue of the main character. Shattering Stigmas is also about bringing awareness to help eliminate misconceptions, which I think What I Lost nailed. Anorexia is not an alien problem anymore, it’s so so common in our world. It can be seen in this novel how so many of the things that led to this disorder are related to the lack of self-love and to the insecurity about one’s sacred temple, which is a consequence of the stereotypes and requirements imposed in our society and by our own families.
This book was recommended to me by someone who had suffered from anorexia, which was why I knew the representation would be accurate at least to some extent. Regardless, it felt very real to me, too real at times, despite never having experienced it myself.
It’s a book that could actually go by really fast, but it took me a long time (more than two weeks) because I made myself put it down after short periods of reading. It really made me think and it was totally out of my comfort zone. It was like a slap of reality and truthfulness to the face, but I’m grateful for it, I learned so much thanks to it.
Besides getting to know a lot about the main character and how she felt, this book was masterful in portraying the tough but authentic family relationships. There’s not a single book that felt more grounded and close to how the real world actually is than this one. I gave it 4 stars because of the discomfort that it sometimes created in me, which is only thanks to how brutally honest the narration is. Alexandra Ballard didn’t shy away, but sometimes it was very painful for me to read.
Absolutely worth it anyway.
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Sophie! (After reading your review, I definitely want to pick this one up.) Go show Sophie some love in the comments, and also be sure to subscribe to her BookTube channel– it’s one of my very favorites!
What’s the best book with eating disorder rep you’ve read?