Skinny by Ibi Kaslik
Synopsis (by Barnes & Noble):
Do you ever get hungry? Too hungry to eat?
Holly’s older sister, Giselle, is self-destructing. Haunted by her love-deprived relationship with her late father, this once strong role model and medical student, is gripped by anorexia. Holly, a track star, struggles to keep her own life in balance while coping with the mental and physical deterioration of her beloved sister. Together, they can feel themselves slipping and are holding on for dear life.
This honest look at the special bond between sisters is told from the perspective of both girls, as they alternate narrating each chapter. Gritty and often wryly funny, Skinny explores family relationships, love, pain, and the hunger for acceptance that drives all of us.
** spoiler alert ** I enjoyed this book at some parts and in others I wanted to throw it and shout, “Stereotypical! Overdone!” Of course if you’ve read several books on a certain topic (the Holocaust, Japan or, in this case, anorexia) certain things are going to overlap and be repetitive. This book stands out from the rest in the way Giselle describes her experience. Many people claim that when in the clutches of anorexia, it feels as though they are possessed by something other than themselves. This was certainly the case here, but the descriptions of actually looking in the mirror and seeing something completely different were interesting.
It was also different from many stories in that Giselle seemed to genuinely want to beat this thing much of the time. I also enjoyed when the story was told from her perspective that she spoke as if she were the patient (she is a med student in the book) and was very much detached from things. Of course this theme of detachment is common among many anorexics, the style used in the telling here is refreshingly unique.
Of course there was the usual questioning sexuality, high academic achiever, poor relationship/deceased father, drugs and alcohol abuse - but not in the same devil-may-care recklessness as in “Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia” by Marya Hornbacher. In this case, Giselle openly admits that the poor relationship with her late father affected her. She claims that she was basically self medicating with the drugs and alcohol. She also recognizes and agonizes over the fact that she sabotages relationships and struggles with her boyfriend.
On the other hand, her sister Holly is a sassy private school girl who excels in athletics far more than in academia. She had a good relationship with her father and is just entering the “world of boys.” Holly’s telling of the story mirrors the same frustration many similar characters in other books have in trying to understand and be supportive of this deadly illness. Add to this equation Giselle’s boyfriends open interest in Holly, her experimental and rash personality, a hearing impairment, and the world of private school discipline and it is clear that Holly has her own demons to battle.
Perhaps what I liked most about this book is that it does not have a happy ending. Giselle dies. Plain and simple, the anorexia kills her. The way this story was written had me feeling pulled in many directions: Hopeful that Giselle would get better. Fed up with her whining and excuses. Slapping my forehead when Holly repeatedly got into trouble. Angry at their mother who did not even seem interested in trying to understand what was going on. Most books about eating disorders start out telling how the disorder started (some trauma, usually, or the also common “I didn’t even realize it!”), how someone intervenes, what help was given and how through struggles, hard work, tears and support from family and friends they are not living healthy and happy lives. This is not one of those books. Many loose ends are left that way, but in a good way.
If you’ve read several books on eating disorders or anorexia in particular, this one is definitely worth taking a look at if for no other reason than that it is different on many levels.
Final Word: B+