Purge by Sarah Darer Littman is what I would call an "issues novel." It deals with an important young adult issue- bulimia. And, while it is that type of book, giving information on a sensitive topic and allowing us to see into the life of one bulimic in particular, it is also well written. Littman's book allows readers to care about Janie and want to know why she has chosen bulimia as a means of coping with her problems.
Janie doesn't feel like she measures up to her older sister. She always feels as though her father and mother are comparing her. Whenever she eats, she feels full, as if she can feel the food she has eaten attaching itself to her body, making it fat. At first she begins purging only after she binges, but eventually purging becomes a way of life. Something happens at her sisters' wedding that sends Janie over the edge, bringing to light the unhealthy way Janie is dealing with eating and food. Janie begins to journal about things while she is in treatment at Golden Slopes, a facility that helps people with eating disordesr. The journalling lets readers get a glimpse of why Janie behaves the way she does and her interactions with others affected by eating disorders shed more light on this problem.
I enjoyed the perspectives that the various characters in treatment provided to readers. Each person had their own reason for binging and purging, or starving themselves. At one point in the book during a group session someone seeking treatment comments about how their behavior doesn't seem that different from their friends and family on the outside. The examples they gave showing unhealthy attitudes about food, eating and body image seem consistent with what I have noticed myself. One suggestion for Janie and her friends in treatment consisted of something called "mindful eating." Instead of eating while engaged in other activities, thinking about your eating and really enjoying it while you are doing it is encouraged. So is being aware of your body's signals about food. A lot of this is common sense, but the advice is good for everyone, not just people affected with an eating disorder.
Littman includes a variety of sources for seeking additional information on this topic. This book covers a very important problem and dealt with it in a sensitive and thought provoking way.