Where to put Inside Out?

Inside Out: Portrait of An Eating Disorder written and illustrated by Nadia Shivack; published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division, New York, 2007.

Nadia Shivack documented her relationship with ED (her nickname for her eating disorder) by sketching on napkins and other scraps of paper.  In therapy, she discovered that distracting her disturbing thoughts could quiet ED enough to slowly develop a healthier relationship with food; so a friend gave her colored pencils and the sketching began.  Still recovering and struggling today, she chose to share her tumultuous journey with others.

The result is a simple book that is misleadingly complex and emotional.  Her straight-from-the-hip text reveals her struggles, flaws and strengths in a few well-chosen words.  Jarring facts about eating disorders are included.  But the most impact comes from the sketches, cartoons with inner dialog that chilled me to the bone.  The genius of this book lies in the unflinching way Shivack shares her demon.

This book is totally well-designed.  Shivack’s narration is reverse printed, white on black, a hint that this book is coming from the dark depths of her existence.  All-caps are used for the facts, in goldenrod boxes; no mistaking this is intended to get attention.  Caribbean blue end papers and sunshiny yellow pages mislead the readers into thinking this is a bright, happy story of youth.  Then the images are examined closely, and the horrors that eat away from the inside are revealed.  When combined, this is a truly powerful way of depicting something that cannot be comprehended by outsiders.

The book is designed like a graphic novel.  In fact, I stumbled across the book by accident in a display of graphic novels (and it is in fact cataloged as a graphic novel at the library where I picked it up).  I think that is a terrible injustice to the young adults (and adults) that need to hear this story.  This book belongs in non-fiction, next to other books about eating disorders.  With a couple of quick searches, I discovered that another local library shelved it in adult nonfiction; a third library did put it in young adult nonfiction alongside other books on anorexia, bulemia and other eating disorders.

This book needs to be paired with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls to flesh out (sorry) Lia’s agonies.  (Read my review.)  Use pathfinders, read-alike lists, displays, whatever is needed to get this book into the hands of teens.

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 6-12+

Cover Art: The author’s colorful sketches are portrayed on paper that has been creased, crumpled, and ripped.  Big time ripped.  A big clue that this is a story of dysfunction.  The graphic novel appearance and Shivack’s art will certainly catch young adult eyes.

From Reading List: Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (YALSA) 2008, Too Good to Be True Nonfiction


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