Author: Stephanie Elliot
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: February 28, 2017
The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.
I read about 50 pages into this book and stumbled upon a disturbing review about it, as well as the possible effects it would have on potential readers. With that, I’m not wasting anymore time on this harmful, damaging book.
I originally requested this because it seemed like a hopeful story of a mental illness that is newly discovered, offering insight on eating disorders and how to get treatment. From my reading experience, the narrator – using a second person POV – is talking about girl-on-girl hate and insta-love, fantasizing about a boy’s veins and how romantic he is after meeting him once. After reading a review from a reader with an eating disorder, my thoughts were solidified. This book is hurtful and unhealthy, especially towards a potential teen reader who has an eating disorder. Given the fact that the 4 and 5 stars are from readers who haven’t experienced what Pea, the main character, has, I urge you to pay attention to the readers who have experienced an eating disorder and depression, including the malignant representation it has in this book.
“Sad Perfect” is not just problematic. It’s not just inaccurate. It’s dangerous. The night I first read this book I sat on my bed and sobbed for nearly an hour. I had to give my husband instructions to watch my food intake like a hawk because of how tempted I was to starve myself.
I’ll say this again: the reason I have been so determined to do this review is because I am terrified that a teenager with an ED will pick up this book and that reading it will pose a serious risk to their health.
If you suffer from an ED, especially if you suffer from anorexia or bulimia, I suggest you stop reading this review right now. The quotes I provide are really, very, super triggering, because in order to ingratiate herself with teen sufferers of ARFID, the author of “Sad Perfect” has decided to vilify sufferers of anorexia and bulimia.
Oh, there are other problems too: there’s a total of one PoC and white heteronormativity is held up as beautiful; the love interest is a classic example of you’re-so-special-not-like-all-those-other-girly-girls misogyny; the manuscript is rife with inaccurate, generalised information about EDs and other mental illnesses; and of course the author of the book is not an example of own voices (Elliot’s daughter suffers from ARFID, but she has no ED herself).
That’s enough to tell me that I don’t need to waste my time on this. I don’t need to see for myself how bad it is – these passages are enough in telling me how harmful the book is. I urge you to read that review for yourself. It’s long, but it contains important, necessary words about how this book will be destructive to potential readers.
Pamela from Pamelibrarian addresses the unsafe representation of Pea’s depression, and the way it is addressed in the book in her review as well. There is also a horrible stigma around the mental ward Pea gets sent to as well, which again reinforces ideas that will negatively impact a potential reader’s thoughts.
It all boils down to this: as an author, you have a responsibility toward the teens for whom you are writing. Be a good role model. They are going to look up to you whether you want them to or not. So in your writing, it’s your job to make sure that you are factual, that you are compassionate, and that you provide healthy examples of how to act, not hyped-up scary tactics or the message that you can fix your own brain. I don’t want teens to read this and think that as long as they find a boyfriend or a girlfriend, their depression or anxiety or OCD or self-harm or ED will go away, blasted into oblivion by the power of love. That’s not how it works, and it is irresponsible for Sad Perfect to present this as a path to recovery.
Stay away from this one. From the reviews of people with an eating disorder or depression, their reactions are enough to solidify the harmful effect this book will have.