It is no secret that television shows, movies, and books about mental illness have skyrocketed to popularity in recent years — namely, with the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.
However, it is also not a secret that a majority of these films, shows, and books do not accurately depict the lives of those who battle mental illnesses. Instead, they frequently pander to teenage and/or young adult audiences in order to drive up ratings — meaning they often sacrifice authenticity for relevancy.
With that being said, it is imperative to point out — and subsequently applaud — the media that get these depictions just right. Specifically, this blog post will highlight the books that accurately explore the topic of life with eating disorders.
Crafted in the style of critically acclaimed novels such as Girl Interrupted, Purge follows the story of Janie Ryman — a girl who detests being ill, yet suffers from bulimia. Throughout the novel, Littman delves into Janie’s experience in inpatient treatment, outlining her interactions with other patients, her parents, and the psychiatrists that ultimately piece together why Janie started binging and purging to begin with.
While this novel may appear more lighthearted and enjoyable than the last, its message is anything but. Perfect details the story of Isabelle Lee, a 13-year-old girl whose father just passed away. Although this popular girl appears to have it all together on the outside, her friends — and social following — at school do not see what happens behind closed doors.
As a result of the loss of her father, as well as the near-constant pressure to look, feel, and act perfect, Isabelle develops bulimia — effectively proving that looks can be deceiving.
This novel has the potential to truly hit home, as it not only explores the topic of battling anorexia nervosa, but it also highlights how impactful another’s person’s words can be — especially when that person is one’s own mother.
Massive details the downward spiral of a girl named Carmen, whose mother is obsessed with the idea of being thin. She crash diets, equates thinness to success, and ultimately pushes those ideals on her impressionable daughter. Of course, this catches up to Carmen and the true storyline begins.
Sarah Dessen has been known to write powerful, thought-provoking, and emotional novels throughout her career. Naturally, Just Listen is no exception, as it tells the story of Annabel, whose older sister is battling anorexia. This book clearly takes on a different perspective, focusing on the ways in which family members cope with their loved ones’ disorders as opposed to focusing on the victims themselves.
Evidently, there are some excellent lessons to be learned from these novels — not just about the trials those who battle eating disorders face, but about how to care for and love them through recovery as well.
Interested in discovering more books, films, and television shows that accurately depict mental illnesses and their respective treatments? Keep an eye out for the next part of this series!