cover image PERFECT


Natasha Friend, . . Milkweed, $16.95 (172pp) ISBN 978-1-57131-651-6

Ever since 13-year-old Isabelle Lee's dad died nearly two years ago, her mother refuses to talk about him or cry publicly. Isabelle has followed her example, keeping her feelings inside. On the day of his funeral, though, she began binging and purging. When she's later caught (her younger sister tells on her) her mother sends her to an eating disorder support group, where Isabelle is surprised to see "perfect" Ashley, the most popular girl in her grade. The two form a friendship that revolves around their eating disorder; they use their hands to cram down mass amounts of food, then throw up in a dumpster, side by side (Ashley even introduces Isabelle to ex-lax). The story arc here is fairly predictable: Isabelle learns that Ashley's life is not so perfect after all, and this combined with therapy puts her on the road to recovery. But graphic binging and purging scenes ("I alternated handfuls of potato chips and HoHos with swallows of Diet Coke.... It always feels better coming up than going down") and Isabelle's therapy sessions help explain the disease to readers without seeming didactic. The believable and likable heroine relates many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments (in one scene, she and her sister decide to celebrate Hanukkah, which they haven't done since her Jewish father died; they raise their glasses to his empty chair). Ultimately Isabelle's story will both touch and educate readers. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)