By Diane Tullson
Thankyou to whoever recommended this book - I sadly can't seem to find the comment with the recommendation, but if it was you please let me know :)
This is a fictional novel which I think would be suitable for young teenagers. Bearing this intended audience in mind, I have given it three stars; compared to other fiction for this age-range, such as Wintergirls, rather than comparing it to adult memoirs/novels that are obviously (hopefully) going to have more depth. Compared to Wintergirls I felt Zero was a story I could personally relate to, while with the former I experienced no sense of connection at all.
I think Zero conveyed a basic but accurate portrayal of how Anorexia/Bulimia can sneak up on a person so subtly yet rapidly. I liked the fact that it may help break the often inaccurate assumption of the disorder being driven by the media or societal pressures to 'be skinny'. I found Kas (the protagonist) to be very wholesome underneath the disorder; she comes across as sensible and likeable, which I hope helps young readers to see that Anorexia is not a 'stupid person's disease', or a 'vanity disease' and that it can drive even seemingly well-functioning minds into madness. I also liked the reference to her art work expressing the disorder taking over her mind and body.
What I didn't like about this book is that it seemed... half empty? Strangely I got the same feeling with this book as I did when reading 'The Bell Jar'; every time I thought 'this bit could be really good', the bit never finished. I wanted to add extra pages in to explore the parts I really thought had potential if only they weren't skimmed over. One example is the part where she seems to randomly go to a different town and ends up in a car with a scary druggy man/boy. It is inferred that she slept with him, however it does not go into detail. Perhaps this was due to the young audience? But I still felt that if that was going to be included, it should have been included properly (exploring this experience and her feelings around it in more depth), or not at all. It seemed out of the ordinary for her character to do, so maybe it was demonstrating a bit of teenage rebellion, or an eating disordered self hatred and purposeful intention to harm herself through a disregard for her own safety and feelings?
Another example is Kas' family; we hear about them briefly, but we never actually meet them. I would have liked to have been introduced to more of her background from before she went off to college, or perhaps we could have gone with her when she returned home due to her illness?
I do however appreciate the Author's notes at the back of the book beginning with the statement: 'Whenever authors write about eating disorders, they risk trivializing the suffering of real victims, who live in a world that is unreadable in its horror. In writing Zero, I hoped to give readers a glimpse into the dark world of self-destruction that plagues people with eating disorders.' - I think she did indeed give a 'glimpse' into the dark world of self-destruction, and maybe this was a suitable glimpse for the age group. However for me, a glimpse was not enough. It is a hard one because as the author acknowledges, the reality is so disturbing that perhaps this wouldn't be suitable for a teenage book.
Within the author's notes she details useful to-the-point facts regarding Eating Disorders; I felt this was responsible to do in order to educate young readers on the warning signs and what to do to help with compassion if they or someone they know is suffering.
In conclusion I felt the book was okay for a very light read and a brief introduction to eating disorders, but I found the plot as a whole frustrating with what seemed like lots of hoax starts to sub-plots. In addition, the ending was weak; the story seemed to stop abruptly when Kas starts receiving treatment. Also, her eating disorder symptoms don't really appear to emerge until nearly two thirds of the way into the book. Although I appreciate that it may be important to show how the person's life can start out as pretty normal, I think the book could have been a bit longer to give sufficient time to the eating disorder experience itself.
- Durham, County Durham, United Kingdom
- (November 2010) > I am taking a year (or two) out of university to recover from an eating disorder; originally diagnosed as restricting anorexia 7 years ago, but has more recently morphed into BN non-purgeing type/ BED/ COE/ EDNOS / whatever you want to call it. I thought I would write a blog to give me a kind of project to work on, mainly giving an insight into the Eating Disorders books that I have read and any interesting articles/videos I find. However, there may be some updates on my life and thoughts once in a while. My quest is to understand these disorders, although I know the best I can do is to keep on researching xxx Update (2012): I have now returned to uni.
Pictures (not mine)
Tattoo one taken from: