Robin Fried­man
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012

For high school senior Park­er Rabi­nowitz, any­thing less than suc­cess is a fail­ure. He runs track. He has a 4.0 aver­age. He is vot­ed the school’s sex sym­bol. He writes for the news­pa­per and runs at least half a dozen clubs. 

And he is bulim­ic.

Robin Friedman’s nov­el, Noth­ing, traces the eighty-eight days before his col­lapse as well as its after­math. The sto­ry, told in alter­nat­ing chap­ters by Park­er and his younger sis­ter, Danielle, feels inevitable and at times, frus­trat­ing. As Park­er binges and purges, no one notices. The dis­ease takes over his life, and he gets no help. He with­draws from fam­i­ly and friends. Fried­man does an excel­lent job of show­ing the insid­i­ous nature of eat­ing dis­or­ders. Parker’s inte­ri­or mono­logue is filled with iso­la­tion, self loathing, and inse­cu­ri­ty. Although every­one else sees him as high­ly suc­cess­ful, the read­er learns the ter­ri­fy­ing truth. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there are some mis­steps. Parker’s father’s diag­no­sis of male breast can­cer is strange at best, and makes us ques­tion how much Fried­man trusts the read­er. She also shows the worst stereo­types of a Jew­ish fam­i­ly. The Rabi­nowitz family’s bla­tant­ly super­fi­cial Jew­ish expe­ri­ence, con­stant black tie events and named par­ties infuse a cyn­i­cal tone to the text. Also, Park­er often refers to Julianne, his non-Jew­ish girl­friend, as a shik­sa. This uncom­fort­able, out­dat­ed lan­guage may have been used for humor, but it leaves the read­er with less empa­thy for Park­er. The best part of this book is Danielle. Her hon­est nar­ra­tives, writ­ten in effec­tive delin­eat­ed prose, are filled with love, fear, and envy. Her scant com­ments har­ness the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and fear we all have when deal­ing with this dis­ease. It is through Danielle that the read­er expe­ri­ences the break­down and sal­va­tion of this Jew­ish fam­i­ly. Noth­ing offers a com­pelling dis­cus­sion, rec­om­mend­ed for read­ers 14 and up.
Sarah Aron­son holds an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from Ver­mont Col­lege. She is a full time writer and has recent­ly pub­lished her first nov­el, Head Case (Roar­ing Brook) for young adults. Sara blogs every Thurs­day for the Lilith blog.

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