A Really Good Book!
BELIEVAREXIC is the fictionalized memoir of author JJ Johnson's stay in an eating disorder unit (EDU) in the 80s. The book begins with the fifteen-year-old main character, Jennifer, asking her parents to admit her to the hospital for a disease that they didn't realize she had. Jennifer is taken in for an evaluation, and she's admitted for over two months of intensive, structured treatment for the eating disorder.
The book starts with choppy free verse and in a lighter font, and the sentence structure and the print both get stronger as Jennifer improves under the care of a mixed bag of medical professionals. Jennifer's primary therapists help her to realize that her issues go beyond her relationship with food and her weight, and she is also treated for alcoholism. Family problems come to the surface, too, and Jennifer's relationships with her mom, dad, and older brother are all examined.
There is a LOT going on in this book! The look at the inner workings of an eating disorder unit from the perspective of a patient is fascinating, and because JJ Johnson pulls from her experiences and journals, I can only believe that the depiction is spot-on. Jennifer is a great character. She's vulnerable, strong, funny, and interesting, and I was rooting for her from the opening pages. Although the free verse section at the beginnig of the book was a little hard for me to get through, once Jennifer's thoughts and observations clarified, I was able to immerse myself in the story a little better.
One of the flaws of BELIEVAREXIC is that Jennifer is the only character that feels multi-dimensional, so it's fortunate that she's so great. The other patients and the staff members in the EDU are hollow, and Jennifer's family never feels fully developed. Despite that, I was invested in Jennifer's outcome, and I zipped through the book -- as someone who was a teen in the 80s, I appreciated the references to that point in time.
BELIEVAREXIC is a really good book, and it's one that handles its subject matter well. My thanks to the publisher and YA Books Central for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Great main character