What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size 0 obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Strong sexual themes
Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Debut author Ballard details exactly what 16-year-old Elizabeth loses as she strives for perfection and eventually learns to accept herself. Elizabeth has achieved her ultimate goal, being a size zero, by starving herself. Yet her achievement results in her being placed in a psychiatric facility and forced to lose what she’s come to think of as her “perfect” size. Puzzling packages soon start arriving for Elizabeth that bring out painful memories, and she wonders how, or if, she will survive anorexia to return to her normal life. Ballard’s tender novel is one of recovery and acceptance. She enters into the complex world of teenagers and the sensitive issues they deal with on a daily basis, clearly depicting how teens can succumb to medical conditions such as anorexia. Deliberate pacing makes the story a little difficult to get into during the first few chapters, but readers will gradually fall deeper and deeper into the story. A heartfelt account that shows a lot of promise from a new author.
Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2017)
A young woman struggles with anorexia in this debut. High school junior Elizabeth has dropped to a dangerous 90 pounds before being sent to Wallingfield Psychiatric Facility by her worried parents. She’s unsure what to expect and is somewhat ambivalent about her treatment—she doesn’t want to get better if it means that she has to gain weight. However, as this engrossing and heartfelt novel progresses, Elizabeth finds that the enforced, monitored meals and various therapy groups at Wallingfield are at once sources of shame, frustration, and hope. Vivid descriptions of the panic and visceral disgust she experiences at the prospect of eating juxtapose well with the account of her progress as she begins to confront just how profound the effect her mother’s disordered relationship with food and body image has had on her. That some of this account is noticeably expository finds compensation in Elizabeth’s well-developed character. Elizabeth develops supportive friendships with several girls at the center, and a romantic subplot with a boy she knows from school adds an appealing layer to the first-person, confessional narrative. The ethnicities of the main characters are not specified, though mention is made of a friend of Elizabeth’s standing out as the only Indian student at school, suggesting that the community is predominantly white. Readers will root for the novel’s likable main character and gain some understanding of the complexity of her illness at the same time. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Alexandra Ballard has worked as a magazine editor, middle-school English teacher, freelance writer, and cake maker. She holds master’s from both Columbia (journalism) and Fordham (education) and spent ten years in the classroom, beginning in the Bronx and ending up in the hills of Berkeley, California, with her husband and two daughters. What I Lost is Alexandra Ballard’s debut novel.
Her website is www.alexandraballard.com.
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