Title: The Stone Girl
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Publisher: August 28th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.
Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.
Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.
Poor Sethie is so sick. She has a distorted body image, anorexia, the beginnings of bulimia and probably obsessive compulsive disorder. But she has nobody in her life to help her. Her mom is mostly absent from her life, her “boyfriend” is a douche canoe who is using her for her body and she has no friends. She keeps order in her life by controlling her diet and weight.
Her boyfriend, whom Sethie was very careful not to chase away by holding his hand or actually calling him her boyfriend, was more one-dimensional for me. Maybe that was the point, that Sethie never really got to know him, but I wish the reader was able to. He didn’t talk much and we were not privy to his thoughts. Janey, Sethie’s new friend, was my favorite character. She was so vibrant and cheerful, but she was also very observant. She realized before anyone else what was happening to Sethie, and even recognized her part in it. I found Rebecca, Sethie’s mother, to be sort of unrealistic. To leave her daughter with so much freedom, and be so oblivious to her illness just didn’t sit well with me. I did like how most of the characters seemed to grow and learn as the novel neared the end.
The dialogue was a bit choppy and almost childish. But perhaps that was because Sethie was so child-like in her attitudes. The way Janey talked was fun, especially when she talked to Sethie. She was just matter of fact and said what she was thinking.
The Stone Girl was written in third person, so we never got into Sethie’s head like I would have wanted to. It made it hard to really connect with her. Luckily, the story and the writing were enough to keep me hooked. I’m not too familiar with eating disorders, so I don’t know if Sethie’s experiences were common, but they felt real to me. I think all of it was a very realistic portrayal (aside from the mother) of how a girl could end up in such a low place.
I like the cover, it’s so simple. The model isn’t as thin as Sethie, but you can get an idea of what the novel is all about.
Though not a favorite, this sad story is one worth reading.