Diana Spechler’s second novel focuses on the cringe-worthy, nerve-wracking, hide-your-head-in-the-sand world of body image issues, eating disorders, and unwanted weight gain. So if the subject makes you want to climb under the covers, lock your doors and come out on the tenth of never, beware. This is a disturbingly honest, startlingly funny look at adolescent girls (and some boys, too) and the necessary but complicated part food plays in their already fraught, rocky road toward adulthood. The story is set in a weight loss summer camp that is partly a moneymaking scam and has a cast of characters simultaneously appealing and repellent. There are child-manipulating adults here, both witting and not, as well as a carload of family secrets and betrayals of trust. The protagonist, interestingly named Gray, stumbles over her many self-constructed roadblocks in an attempt to figure out what she truly hungers for in life and whether being “skinny” is ever really enough. The writing, unlike some of the characters, is pared down, svelte, and sparkling.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.