I was shelving in the Teen section of my store one day and ran across Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern, and since there seems to be a trend of “teens with physical/mental health issues” genre books becoming popular, I decided I should give this one a try.
Synopsis: Anna is depressed, so her parents have sent her to a psychiatric hospital to get better. While there she writes letters to her friend on the outside, detailing all the things that happen as she meets the other patients, gets a roommate, and begins to fall for the cutest boy in the ward. She doesn’t know how long she will be there, but things don’t seem that bad anymore, especially when the cute boy starts smiling back at her.
Okay, I need to get this out of the way first… Anna mentions that she thinks she is chubby all the time, and she may even have an eating disorder, but I don’t think that it is addressed well enough. Her depression seems to be completely tied to her body image issues, which is why I am so baffled by the emphasis that her doctors and parents put on her weight loss. This hyper-awareness of her weight would only feed into any body image issues that she has, and would in no way be helpful to her situation. Her size doesn’t stop her from doing anything, and isn’t remarkable enough to draw comments from other people. She doesn’t seem to be hoarding food, purging, or starving herself, and only briefly mentions that she used to eat alone in her room. Her whole issue with food seems to focus on how it affects her digestive system, but this is problem easily overcome by the restricted diet that she has at the hospital. So now she poops less? Is this the ultimate purpose of her hospitalization?
What redeems this book is Anna’s friendships with the other patients. It is likely that their very lack of focus on her size finally helps her begin to accept herself. The boys comments that she has a “juicy” body can at least be considered positive. Unfortunately, we really don’t get to learn much about the other patients. The little we learn of them would indicate that there is much more but, sadly, we miss out on knowing their stories because Anna is never provided with that information. Luckily there is a second book in the series, so I hope that there is more to learn about her new friends.
Overall, the writing was good, and it was an easy read for a summer afternoon. There is room for more character development and growth, but I think that it is a good attempt for an author’s first novel.
Whenever I read reviews of books about teens, I’m baffled. I feel like the books don’t capture the experiences of teens, and it sounds like this one was a miss, too.
I have to give the author credit for not shying away from issues like abuse or teen sex, but it felt like the main character was essentially ignored.
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