Cover Image: Starvation

Starvation

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Sixteen-year-old Wes McCoy passes out during wrestling practice. He is sent to the hospital and begins to reflect. Before and after, before and after. The story is told in alternating timelines, answering the questions of how we got here and what happens next. The development of Wes's eating disorder is devastating, and all the more so because no one seemed to notice, despite his losing 55 pounds in less than a year. Sadly, this unbelievable plot is not so hard to believe. Just as Wes himself acknowledges, we don't look for eating disorders in boys and men, and we do a tremendous disservice to everyone by assuming eating disorders only happen to girls. 

This book is incredibly powerful and addresses so many issues that affect teens and are too often swept under the rug in an intense, gripping format. Wes is a strong, somewhat unreliable narrator, and his sometimes contradictory thought processes feel very honest to a teen experience. 

As the book progresses, it is revealed that Wes was introduced to anorexia by a ballet dancer he incidentally meets at a wrestling tournament while avoiding the torrent of praise raining down on his impressive, popular, athletic older brother, Jason. Caila intrigues Wes, who has never had a girl express interest in him before. She convinces him to join her on a two-week fruit diet, which he does with a generous degree of skepticism. Sure, Wes acknowledges, the first day of the fruit diet was refreshing, and he felt more focused in wrestling than he ever had, but it's not tenable for the long-term. Wes begins to further doubt the efficacy of the fruit diet as his relationship with Caila continues to develop. Her face is so sallow, he observes, and she avoids eating with intention and pride. Powerfully, Wes is able to identify Caila's anorexia, its unhealthy and potentially fatal consequences, and his desire to help her before his own anorexia and bulimia develops as an attempt to gain control over something after Jason's horrific death. He knows the horrors of this disease, and yet it still takes over his life, which is perhaps the most significant message of the entire story for teens. 

On that note, while I would recommend this to teen readers, I think it should be read with supervision, either in a classroom, as a buddy read with an adult, or just as part of an ongoing conversation. The book is powerful, tragic, and by no means glorifies eating disorders. Indeed, the vast majority of the book focuses on the extreme worst-case scenarios (Caila goes into liver failure and nearly dies; Wes is hospitalized at least twice; the descriptions of bodies as hollow, stretched skin over bones are gruesome and unattractive). Nevertheless, for teens (or adults) who may tend towards disordered eating habits, it is important to know that this book also contains descriptions of strategies that may be used to reduce consumption without being discovered. This is not a book to be read in isolation, but it is a certainly a book that should be read and discussed widely.
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Starvation
Author: Molly Fennig
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: ⭐️  ⭐️  ⭐️  ⭐️  • ✨  / 5
Reviewed: Maya

[Trigger Warning: eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia in particular with bingeing, purging and restricting), loss of a sibling, cancer (leukemia), mental illness, suicide]

Wowha, this book was powerful. Fennig portrayed such a powerful story of Wes, a teenage boy battling anorexia. I read this book in one sitting because I was unable to put the book down - I just had to know what happened next. The chapters altered between the past and the present, which really led the readers on Wes’s journey and slowly revealed the answers to the mysteries of the present times. I found the writing style to be suited to the book and the descriptions really helped the readers to understand Wes. The themes within the book are so, so powerful and told in a very honest, yet still sensitive, way. My only criticism was the mystery around Collin and Wes’s falling out always felt like a mystery and the reason behind it wasn’t fully explained to me. A book about mental health and eating disorders are hard to find, especially one that features a male MC, and Fennig has created an amazing book that is so realistic, heartbreaking and thoughtful. Not very widely-known at the moment, this book will surely become a hit that creates numerous discussions. I would recommend this for everybody (but please pay attention to the trigger warnings). 

Huge thanks to Netgalley, BooksGoSocial and of course Molly Fennig for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. The publishing date was set for the 17th of November, 2020.
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Sixteen year old Wes can’t believe that his brother Jason is dead.  Wes meets Caila sitting in the high school hall on a windowsill crying.  She is dressed as a ballerina.  She thanks Wes after they talk a little but Wes doesn’t understand.  Caila decides to go on a fruit diet and asks Wes to do it too.  It’s for a report on changing eating habits.  Wes doesn’t know if it’s a good thing to do.  Caila wants to lose weight to be able to dance ballet better.  She does lose weight and doesn’t stop.  Wes can’t believe how skinny Caila is.  Wes starts eating less food and at first is happy in his results at wrestling.  Wes continues to eat less until he is so thin, he faints.  He is taken to the hospital where it is discovered that has lost more weight than anyone including his parents knew.  He goes home after a few days in the hospital.  Does Wes go back to normal eating?  He decides to go to Caila’s home to see how she is.  She is skinnier.  Will Wes be able to help Caila or himself?  What caused them to continue eating less?

The author has written about a subject that is known.  It is considered more likely to happen girls but it does happen to boys.  The book shows us a teenager that gets caught from a diet to continue to eating less and throwing up.  It mentions briefly the results that can happen to a person having an eating disorder.  It’s written very realistically.  The author used two time period throughout.  First it said “before” and then alternates with “after.”  
This style of writing is perfect for the novel.  It’s a great book to read and discuss the situation with others.  It is an illness that should not be judged.  It ought to be talked about with others.
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This was a powerful read. It is an emotional and eye opening look into the world of male anorexia. I felt so much emotion for the main character and the trials of his family. Definitely worth picking up.
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Thank you to Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This book is about Wes who struggles with anorexia and is told in two different timelines: before and after. It's quite clever to use two timelines to pique a reader's interest but only when it's done well - in this case, it wasn't. I see no reason for why we needed the alternate timelines and honestly, it would have read better had it been one linear plot. 

Furthermore, I don't feel like we delved deep enough into Wes' story because of the two timelines. The story is mostly shadowed by his girlfriend and his brother and doesn't tell us about Wes or his struggles. It gives us only a glimpse into his illness but does not provide enough story to it. 

Therefore, this book was a bit of a letdown. Sorry!
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"Starvation" is the story of Wes McCoy, a perfectly average high-school student with an overachieving older brother, Jason, superstar of the wrestling team and recipient of a full ride scholarship to Stanford. 

When Jason is killed in a car accident on the way to a state championship, Wes's life begins to spin out of control. Inspired by his new friend, Caila, a ballerina who starves and purges to lose weight, Wes begins to restrict his own food intake to maintain some semblance of control over his life. With Wes's health deteriorating and his life at risk, can he regain control of his life before it's too late? 

"Starvation" is told in alternating before and after chapters, which I liked as it gave a full insight into Wes's life and relationships both before and after his adored brother's death. It was also a refreshing take to have the novel deal with a male eating disorder sufferer, as more often than not, both fiction and non fiction books deal only with female accounts. 

I did feel that it was a little over-simplified at times, but on the whole this is a decent account of anorexia from the perspective of a young male, and much needed in a market saturated by the female experience. 

Thank you to NetGalley, who provided me with a free ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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this was a tough book to get through but i did love the fact that its a boy with an eating disorder since you dont see that very often. its heartwrenching and compelling. as someone who has never had this issue, it was a good look inside the mind of someone who does and seeing how they think and feel just broke my heart for him. anyway, this was a great book, even if it was hard to read.
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Very good read, although it was hard to get through some scenes. I personally have never dealt with an eating disorder but felt the author was good about being descriptive enough to understand the main characters emotions throughout the book. I liked the clever title being the name of a video game but also what the book was based upon. The trauma this young man was going through was graphic and horrible and devastating for one so young. I definitely will be keeping an eye out for future reads from this author.
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I apricated the insight of a boy struggling with an eating disorder, I found this relatable in some parts and also informative. However, the writing style - I was not a fan of, therefore this book has 3 stars.
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His therapist asks, “What do you know about eating disorders?” Wes answers, “I don’t have one. I’m not a girl.”

It’s like autism but the other way round. With autism we immediately think about boys, but girls have it too. They only can adapt better, making it less noticeable. With anorexia we all think about girls but more and more boys have it too. Anorexic boys only can hide their eating behavior better, making it less noticeable. 

This book is about Wes who meets Caila, an anorexic girl. Caila only eats 200 calories a day. At first Wes doesn’t notice her eating disorder and eats just fruit for a while to support Caila to lose some weight. He discovers he loses weight easily and therefore can wrestle in another weight category. He likes it but knows at the same time he shouldn’t do this, seeing Caila’s hollow cheeks, feeling her bones when he touches her. So he starts to eat regularly again. Until his brother Jason dies in a car accident.

The story is told in dual timelines, before and after. I liked those befores and afters, they gave an inside to what happened to Wes, why he stopped eating and how he struggled to get better. It’s important to have more stories about boys having eating disorders, to know that boys use lesser eating too, to get in control, to deal with major events like Wes had to when Jason died or whatever reason they have to starve themselves. I liked the title of the book which has a double meaning, you need to find out yourself. Sometimes I had tears in my eyes, the way Wes destroyed himself, the moment he found out Jason was dead. I connected more to the second part of the story more than the first part.

I liked a few things less. I had to get used to the writing style, sometimes long sentences, a lot of commas and countless descriptions. To my opinion the story could be far more powerful with shorter, blunter sentences and lesser descriptions. The after chapters were told in present tense and the before in past tense. Maybe the author used it to make a difference between then and now but I’d immediately recognize a before chapter if it had been written in present tense too. I think the story would have been stronger if they were both in the same (present) tense. But I could be wrong :). 

Somehow I missed one important part in the story, Wes lost 55 pounds, 55! A fifteen/sixteen year old losing that much weight and nobody mentioning it? Nobody? His parents were grieving so maybe they didn’t notice but what about his friends, his wrestling coach? He fainted during wrestling. His coach, his teammates should have known. At the beginning of the story Wes mentioned his weight loss and I kept wondering why no one noticed. Regrettably,I didn’t get an answer.

I know the critical part of my review is quite long and it’s not because I think this book is bad. It’s because I think it could have been even better. Overall it’s an important story, we need more stories like this. I doubted about rating it 3 or 4 stars. Because of the writing and the things that could be better, I tended to 3 stars. But because of the premise I round it up to 4.
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In "Starvation", Molly Fennig does an amazing job at protraying anorexia/mental health honestly. There is no preaching in this story, only a message that everyone is responsible for their own actions and everyone deserves to be happy in their own skin. 

I really enjoyed how this story unfolded by switching back and forth between timelines. Although I don't usually like this style of storytelling, it worked perfectly for this story and really added to it. 

Thank you to Netgalley; the publisher; and to Molly Fennig herself for giving me the chance to read this one. I believe telling stories about mental health is one of the few ways to normalize treatment - and Fennig does a great job of that in this book!
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