Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman is one of those ubiquitous young adult novels meant to teach young readers a valuable lesson. While not crossing too far into pedantic preaching or self-righteous judgment, the novel is not so remarkable as to merit much praise. Littman would benefit from an editor who can recognize that young adults are intelligent enough to remember what they read in a previous chapter. The redundancy bordered on insulting. And I don’t mean the vague allusions to the melodramatic moments that led to the protagonist’s admission to the hospital for bulimia. Rather, the repetitious explanations of barfers vs. starvers and the epiphanies the narrator has but then has again. Thankfully, Janie Hyman, the narrator who shares her urge to purge, is a likeable character and much of the psychological dynamic behind bulimia is well explored through the voice of a sympathetic character. However, for the all “this is a cautionary tale about how bad bad bad bulimia is” I found it to be dangerously triggering and I have never been bulimic. If I found myself curious instead of disgusted then I can only imagine how a young girl with body image issues and an eating disorder would struggle with the content. And the conclusion is one of those tie-it-up-in-a-neat-little-bow endings that I suppose are meant to make the story end on a happy note but ultimately result in its ending on a disingenuous one. Also annoying and less remarkable albeit I am remarking on it now . . . why didn’t anyone point out to Littman that the term for practicing before a performance is called a “rehearsal”? Repeatedly Janie talks about her “play practice” when anyone who has done any theater work would know a “practice” is called a rehearsal. With all that said, I suppose someone wanting insight into bulimia and the emotional ramifications of facing this addiction would benefit from reading this novel, if only because of the excellent resources listed at the end of the book.


  1. I just got this in the mail so I went over to GoodReads to see reviews and I found your link here. Since most reviews were positive, your two stars got me curious. I can't say I am too excited about the content of this one...so let's see.

  2. Lenore, I tend to hold young adult literature up to the high(ly subjective) standard I do literature written for adults.

    The novel could have been tighter, with too much explaing in consecutive chapters the same piece of information. Even with that I'd have given it 3 stars but because I found the book triggering, I don't know how safe it would be for young adults to read. And as I mention in the post, I do not have an eating disorder. I never have. So if I found it triggering me to not want to eat I can only imagine how someone who has even a slight inclination in that direction might respond.

    Hopefully the reader who is triggered would then run to the resources at that back of the book to get help but I don't think it is very likely.