Review: Paperweight by Meg Haston

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Paperweight by Meg HastonPaperweight by Meg Haston
Published by HarperTeen on July 7, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon

Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.

Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.

Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.

In this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut, Meg Haston delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss, while posing the question: Why are some consumed by their illness while others embark on a path toward recovery?

Warning: This review could be a Trigger for eating disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide, etc. Please read with caution.

This is a really difficult book for me to review. I had a lot of trouble connecting with the story and the characters and, very early on, I considered DNFing. Despite the disconnect, something about it was compelling enough that I kept reading. While I never fully connected to the story or characters, I did feel for the characters and I did find the story intriguing. At its core, Paperweight was a heartbreaking story about a hurting, grieving girl who didn’t know how to deal with the guilt she felt. For better or worse, this book pulled me in and refused to let go until the very last page.

I didn’t necessarily dislike Stevie, but I really didn’t like her and I’m still not sure why, exactly. I had a lot of trouble relating to her, which made it hard to connect with her. I definitely felt for her and her situation. Though I’ve never had an eating disorder, I’ve always struggled with my weight and my relationship with food. So on some level, I understand what she was going through. But Stevie’s story was more than just her eating disorder. It was her troubled relationship with her parents, her grief over her brother, her toxic relationship with Eden. Stevie had a lot of things/people she had to come to terms with throughout the story. Every time Stevie had a major revelation/turning point in her journey, it was deeply felt and her character growth was obvious. She changed a lot from beginning to end.

I really liked Ashley. I liked how she tried to be nice to Stevie, even when Stevie pushed her away. She was always so optimistic on the outside, even though she was hurting on the inside. My heart broke for her, especially near the end. I also really liked “Shrink” Anna. I actually liked her more than Stevie. I think because I could relate to her a bit more than Stevie. I didn’t go to school for psychology, but I took a lot of psychology classes during my first two years in college and I really felt an affinity to psychology and the idea of listening to others and helping them work through things. So Anna’s character really spoke to me. I’d love a companion novel that focuses on Ashley and her journey and I’d love to see more of Anna, too.

We never really met Eden directly – we just heard about her from Stevie, or saw her in flashbacks/memories. But she was a very toxic friend for Stevie. We’ve all had that kind of friend in our life at some point, so it was easy to understand why Stevie felt she needed Eden, even when she knew Eden was bad for her and her recovery.

It’s hard to talk about Josh because we didn’t officially meet him – like with Eden, he’s just a talking point in Stevie’s sessions with Anna, or someone we see in flashbacks and memories. But he’s very crucial to the story, since his death was the trigger that caused Stevie to spriral down this path of self-destruction. There were times I liked Josh and the way he tried to look after Stevie and there were times I hated him for the way he treated her. But overall, it was a typical brother/sister relationship. I can’t imagine being in Stevie’s shoes and losing a brother, though my heart ached just seeing what the guilt and grief did to her.

Rain was an interesting character. For the most part, her only purpose was to be an eye-opener for Stevie, to see what she was like when she first arrived in the treatment center and to see the progress she’s made. I would have liked to see Stevie interact more with Rain, but it was still an interesting plot element.

The writing was a bit stilted and awkward in the beginning and though the pacing was never slow, it wasn’t a fast read, either. However, the last 30% of the book (roughly) had a LOT going for it. Stevie made the most progress in this section and there were a lot of character twists and revelations. I definitely think the last 30% is what kept me reading, more than anything.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book. Though I never fully connected with the story or characters, it was an intriguing book with very important lessons regarding mental/physical health and the toll that grief can take on our minds and bodies.