Last year (it’s so hard to believe it was actually last year already), I read P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful middle grade books that I’ve ever read. Of course, I also thought it was one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read, and I needed my fair share of tissues to get through it. So when I found out (out of the blue, actually) that the author was coming out with her second book featuring a twelve year old girl with an eating disorder, I knew I was going to want to read that, too.
I bought this book the day it came out, and that’s really rare for me. I didn’t read any reviews on it first and I didn’t do much research on the book – I just bought it. The bright yellow-orange cover made this eye catching (because of the eyes…see what I did there?), and I couldn’t wait until I finished the book I was currently reading so I could dive into this one.
“I don’t know who ‘the old Riley’ is anymore, though. And there are no antibiotics that will get rid of my thoughts, which are way too powerful to be silenced. They tell me I’m not good enough. They tell me to be skinnier and prettier. To run more and eat less.
They tell me that everything about me is wrong.”
Good Enough starts out with Riley, a twelve-year-old girl who loves drawing, running on the track team, and her family and friends, in a hospital for her eating disorder. Riley is battling anorexia, and while she doesn’t believe anything is wrong with her, that being skinnier and running more and eating less is what she wants, her parents have had her admitted here. She feels angry and hurt at them putting her in the hospital, but she feels even more resentful over the loss of her freedom to choose: while at the hospital, Riley must follow rules such as absolutely no exercise, participate in group time, eat all the food on your plate (or drink one of the nasty nutrition shakes), and attending required therapy to get to the root which her eating disorder stemmed from.
At the same time as all of this, Riley is dealing with her best friend being mad at her, her other friends acting strange around her, and her parents not understanding her at all. Why won’t her mom listen to her? Why won’t her dad visit her? And why is it okay for her perfect younger sister to continue with gymnastics, when all Riley wanted to do was be thinner, to be the best at something?
Good Enough is told in a journal like format, chronicling Riley’s day-to-day life in the hospital. We are taken through her therapy sessions, we get to understand why she feels how she does about her friends, her parents, and most of all, herself. As Riley learns how to properly care for herself so that she can get on the road to recovery, she is challenged by other girls in the hospital, her parents, and most of all, herself.
Riley is an incredibly likeable character and getting to go on this heartbreaking and powerful journey with her makes the book such a worthwhile read. There were times when I laughed out loud, and other times when I felt like crying. The emotions in this book are so raw, so full of life, that you can’t help but be pulled in from the very first page.
I loved the journal-like format of the book. It’s told over the course of several weeks, and it’s different from your traditional novel format.
So what didn’t I like about this book? Riley’s parents.
Riley’s parents were terrible. Her mother cared only about how she appeared to Riley’s doctors in the hospital, and Riley’s dad couldn’t be bothered to get on board with helping her recover, blaming her for everything and pretty much just avoiding her at all costs. I disliked them so much, and I felt like the one thing they could offer Riley – a decent support system – was something they outright refused to give her, insisting that Riley should be just fine or that she should just make herself better. I’m not sure if the author intentionally wrote those two characters in such a way, because let’s face it, parents like that do exist out there more often than not, but I just didn’t feel that they were very realistic. I mean, if my daughter was in the eating disorder unit of the hospital, I would do pretty much anything and everything to help her, including listen to her, which is something neither of Riley’s parents seemed to want to do.
Riley’s sister, Julia, didn’t have a huge role in the book, but she did make it interesting. Riley genuinely seemed to care about her, even though she was often jealous of her, her gymnastics, and her parents’ affection. Even Riley seemed to know that it was obvious that Julia was the favorite child.
This book is a really moving novel and I feel like it should definitely be in public libraries and school libraries everywhere. Like the writing in her previous novel, Jen Petro-Roy really created a convincing character and plot that made my heart both break and melt at the same time. The entire book takes place at the hospital, save for flashbacks and the occasional moment here and there, and I felt like she did an amazing job painting the scene and creating the story.
Another thing I didn’t know about this book until I had finished it and read the author’s note in the back is that the author actually battled an eating disorder, too. This book is not only amazing, it’s personal and dear to her heart.
Honestly, if you are on the fence about this book, just read it. It’s not very long, and it’s so engulfing that you won’t want to put it down even for a second. If you haven’t read the author’s other book, make sure you read that one, too.