Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan
(Available March 1)
Sixteen-year-old Jack, nicknamed "Bones," won't eat. His roommate in the eating disorder ward has the opposite problem and proudly goes by the nickname "Lard." They become friends despite Bones's initial reluctance. When Bones meets Alice, a dangerously thin dancer who loves to break the rules, he lets his guard down even more. Soon Bones is so obsessed with Alice that he's willing to risk everything–even his recovery.
What sets Skin and Bones apart from other books featuring anorexic characters is twofold. First, Jack is a boy, one of a minority of anorexia patients and often overlooked. Second, his story is hilarious. Most books about eating disorders are sorrowful and poignant, and while those elements are more than present in Bones' story, there are plenty of funny moments. I caught myself chuckling at the character's witty banter in between worrying for them. The members of the EDU are interesting, funny, and defined by more than their disorders. Their stories are piercing and through-provoking.
The first half of the book romanticizes anorexia a little bit; Bones is desperate to be skinny, and believes the skinnier the more beautiful. What first draws him to Alice is her tiny, fragile body, the epitome of dancer stereotypes. It's instalove for the pair, but Alice refuses to even think about recovery while Bones wonders just how much longer his body can go on like this. Even so, Bones is obsessed with Alice to Shakespearean proportions. I enjoyed the romance more for the questions it raised (how do you save someone from the very thing that's destroying you, especially if they don't want to be saved?) than for the actual relationship between Alice and Bones.
Shahan balanced a heavy topic with levity and humor, from the perspective of an underdog you can't help but cheer for. While Skin and Bones may not be as finely tuned as some others in its genre, it earns its distinction and a place among the best of them.
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