I count myself fortunate to read this book as part of the author’s ARC tour. This book caught me off guard for several reasons, mainly because I actually found myself relating to the protagonist. I have never admitted that to anyone but the author herself. This story is raw, rough, and beautifully written.
Pea, a sixteen year old girl, looks like your average teenager only she isn’t. Pea has some dark secrets she is keeping private. She has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), which means she actively avoids a lot of food. The only way she can describe it is like having a monster living inside of her talking to her. She has a small list of foods that are deemed “okay” to eat. This “monster” not only controls her eating, it causes depression, anxiety, and much darker thoughts. Pea doesn’t want to admit she has this monster but after she meets a boy, Ben, the monster becomes too much for her to ignore. Everything escalates and quickly gets out of control. Pea starts to believe she doesn’t need her anxiety medicine so she stops taking it. Things go from bad to worse faster than anyone could have realized. Just when it seemed Pea would never find her way out of the black hole, she has the realization that with the strength of her family and Ben, she can beat this monster and the eating disorder doesn’t have to rule her life.
The main thing that stuck out to me about this story was the fact that it was written in second person. I have not ever read a story in second person before. I believed it worked perfectly for this story. I truly felt as if I was experiencing everything Pea was going through. To have the extra insight into Pea’s thoughts and feelings added another level to this story. Pea’s character is actually based directly on Stephanie’s daughter. That means this is based on a true story. I felt it was incredibly brave of Stephanie to put her daughter’s story out for the world to read. At the same time, it made me accept the fact that I have my own food avoidance eating problem. I never thought I would read about a protagonist with the same issue.
I really liked the characters in the story. I felt they were all so well developed and defined. Pea’s character isn’t bombarded with the need to be thin and “fit in” but it does bring the topic of food avoidance and anxiety to light. Ben’s character does a wonderful job of being supportive and not pressuring. Not one time does he do anything he isn’t supposed to do. He never pushes Pea to be something she isn’t. Instead, he gives her his entire support even when she is being secretive. Stephanie captured the start of Pea & Ben’s relationship in a sensational light. It starts out sweet and tender and innocent, but it isn’t always that way as they are both very young and bound to make mistakes. Pea’s parents have a wonderful presence in this story. I loved reading how involved her parents were. It was refreshing, I’ll tell you that much. Even her brother was worried about her sister and it showed that an entire family can rally together to show support for a loved one. Amazing.
Pea’s character fills the void for those teens that avoid food for one reason or another. Let’s be honest – there is just too much pressure on teenage girls in today’s society to be a certain size and look. This story nailed that topic so well. It also brought light to this particular disorder. Stephanie doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable situations. It talks about both positive and negative coping mechanisms. It worked perfectly in this story. I also like how as the story goes along, it is more than a contemporary story. It shows how important the love and support of family and friends can be for someone suffering from anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. I am sure I don’t need to say I tore through this book in no time. Once I started reading I couldn’t stop. It flowed wonderfully and it was over before I knew it. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.
I’m not sure I can say enough good things about this story. I want everyone to read it. I want everyone to give it a chance and read Pea’s story. This is such a astonishing story that will stay with a reader long after they finish it. Please, add this to your TBR if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it.