Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review: Nothing

Nothing by Amy Friedman. (Grades 9+)

Parker Rabinowitz has been holding it together for a long time, but as our story begins, things are starting to unravel. Parker struggles to balance 6 AP classes, track, youth group at his synagogue, and other extracurricular activities, all with the goal of getting into HYP (Harvard/Yale/Princeton). If he keeps his nose to the grindstone and gives 200%, he'll be accepted to the college of his choice... or at least that's what his college consultant tells him. Parker's determined to get into Princeton's pre-med program. It's been his dream for years. Or is it his dad's dream? Parker's not sure anymore.

Meanwhile, little sister Danielle is completely overshadowed. She looks up to her big brother but it bothers her that sometimes she doesn't seem to exist in her parents' eyes. And she wonders if people are friends with her because it's the easiest way to get to know Parker. Sometimes she wants to be him, just to see what it's like getting all the attention and basically having everything one could ever want.

But Parker's got a secret.

His only relief from the tremendous pressure is binging and purging, a cycle that gives him some measure of control over his life. Although Parker knows it's a problem, he doesn't know how to find help. He doesn't know who he can trust with his secret. And things are getting worse and worse...

The hook for me, the thing that made me want to read this book, is its unique perspective. Although I know that guys suffer from eating disorders, I haven't seen many books about eating disorders told from a guy's perspective. Friedman includes an extensive author's note about eating disorders and a Q&A with the man who inspired the character of Parker Rabinowitz.

This story is a gripping portrayal of a life spiraling out of control. Parker's frank tone is coupled with free-verse poems from Danielle's point of view, giving us a complete picture of a family falling apart. Parker doesn't know how to ask for help and Danielle, who would help him, has no idea what's going on. Mom and Dad are clueless, especially when Mr. Rabinowitz becomes ill.

A Looking-for-Alaska-esque countdown starts on the first page with "88 days before" and helps move the action forward. As the countdown crept down to zero, I found myself racing through the pages to find out what was going to happen. Robin Friedman has created characters that I really cared about and I liked that we get two different perspectives. Parker's voice is urgent and raw while Danielle watches from the sidelines, resenting her brother at times, though she doesn't know what he's hiding.

I have to confess that I stayed up until 2am because I couldn't put the book down. I really enjoyed it. I'd hand it to fans of those Issues books like Inexcuseable or Open Ice. Be sure and check out Robin's website and more reviews at Confessions of a Bibliovore, Librarilly Blonde, Bildungsroman*. Also, you don't have to take our word for it... read the first chapter online.

Many thanks to Flux for sending a review copy! I've read a couple of Flux titles recently and I will definitely be checking out more as I've really enjoyed them.

*All these blogs have such awesome names. I am in awe of their name-finding abilities. I obviously do not have that gift.