Elena Vanishing - A Memoir by Elena and Clare B. Dunkle
Publishing Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 288 pages
The premise: From Elena and her mother Clare, comes a memoir about Elena's battle with anorexia nervosa and mental illness. The story documents Elena's struggle with this eating disorder and Elena attempts to demonstrate the mindset behind this disorder and how complex the road to recovery is.
My overall thoughts and review: When I first read this premise, I was instantly intrigued. I only know about anorexia nervosa from learning about it in highschool and from media depictions. I've always believed that the idea of anorexia nervosa was associated to thought of simply "wanting to be skinny" and reading this memoir definitely offered up a more in-depth look into the disorder. Elena's story is incredibly raw and open and there were moments of the book where I definitely had to put it down and revisit it. The pain that kind of exuberates from the pages definitely were heartbreaking. Also knowing that the story was co-written with Elena's mother is incredibly touching that they have found a way to compile both their experiences into a book together. Side note: Clare also has a book that also speaks about Elena's experiences titled Hope & Other Luxuries.
One thing that Elena is clear on emphasizing in her book that this is not a novel about 'how to cure anorexia nervosa and a guide on how to recover from it.' Instead what Elena offers is an accurate depiction of her mindset through various journal entries and working with her mom, on how she was mentally during this state of her life. She also goes on to speak about how difficult recovery was for her and that it is not a simple process. Reading about her experiences in school and how hard Elena had worked and what a struggle it was for her definitely broke my heart. But I was also incredibly amazed at the strength and bravery that came across in the book because Elena was able to stand up and speak about her experiences very openly. For some circumstances, when people have problems like this, they may often turn away, but Elena took this experience and put it into book form to help her grow from it. That is definitely something to admire.
Lastly, the topic of eating disorders in general are often glamourized or highly elaborated upon in our culture and media and on top of that, it is also a topic of taboo. It is at times a topic that is avoided and glossed over and I think having a book like this in the YA community is great because it gets the discussion moving for those that may be suffering through this as well. Elena mentions in a Q&A (which you can read more about here), that she hopes that her book may be used by family members, teachers, counsellors and possibly even doctors to help bring attention to anorexia nervosa.
If you are looking for an incredibly well-written, raw and open memoir on the topic of anorexia nervosa, this is definitely the read for you. And if, like me, you don't know much about anorexia nervosa to begin with, you should still pick this book up because it is important to be informed on the topic and I think bringing the subject of how complex eating disorders and the road to recovery is, really is something that is much needed in our society today.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)
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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Raincoast Books for consideration/review. All opinions are my own.