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Review of "Purge"

By Sarah Littman
Scholastic Press, 2009
Review by Amy Ridley on Feb 2nd 2010

Janie is a sophomore who is spending her summer vacation at Camp Golden Slopes learning how to stop herself from throwing up after every meal. She cannot believe she landed here after successfully hiding her habit from everyone in her life for over two years. She was throwing up multiple times a day without her family having a clue. Her downfall came at the wedding of her perfect older half-sister Jenny. What should have been a huge celebration of Jenny and Brad's love and commitment to each other ended up getting Janie committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Janie cannot believe she is stuck in Golden Slopes with all of the "barfers and starvers." She would not associate her problem with what any of these people do. The anorexics in the group are wasting away to nothing and the purgers have medical issues as well. Janie just sees it as what she does right now to help herself deal with her parents fighting and what happened with the boy she's had a crush on for years. She just wants to not be fat and disgusting to look at. She does not have any intention of purging for the rest of her life. The therapist does not see things the same way Janie does.

Janie feels horrible for causing a scene at the wedding and ruining the day for her family. She humiliated herself and doesn't know how she's going to right the wrong with her family. She's finding therapy difficult because she doesn't want to admit that there are several issues in her life that are contributing to her bulimia. She enjoys the journaling aspect of therapy but prefers not to share which is where her therapist really thinks she can make a breakthrough.

Janie has always had trouble communicating her feelings to anyone. She ignores her parents arguing at home and does not let either of them know how she is really feeling. She is a successful actress and admits that she's most comfortable on stage acting out someone else's feelings. Once she starts opening up to her therapist and the group at the hospital she realizes that the only way she can make a breakthrough is to confront her fears openly with her family.

The author acknowledges that she has dealt with an eating disorder herself and for readers who cannot relate to the need to purge, her explanation for the need to feel light and empty helps the reader understand the compulsion a bit better. Janie says that she only feels better when she feels empty. Janie's road to recovery involves setbacks and heartbreak which many readers will relate to.

Littman's use of humor throughout the book helps make a heavy topic more accessible. It was nice to see male characters dealing with the disorders as well. The situations that the males found themselves in that helped contribute to their eating disorders was very plausible.

This is appropriate for ages thirteen and up. There are sexual references.


© 2010 Amy Ridley



Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.

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