About the book:
She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.
Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.
Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.
From critically acclaimed writer Alyssa B. Sheinmel comes an unflinching and unparalleled portrayal of one girl’s withdrawal, until she is sinking like a stone into her own illness, her own loneliness—her own self.
Last month we read Alyssa B. Sheinmel‘s thought-provoking new novel “The Stone Girl.” Sheinmel has given an honest portrayal of a teen suffering from body issues, eating disorders and crippling low self esteem. Sethie, Sheinmel’s troubled protagonist, is a privileged young New Yorker who is confused about how she looks and feels about herself. This manifests itself in the destructive behaviors of anorexia and bulimia. Sheinmel sheds a light on the feelings that teenage girls with eating disorders deal with on top of the already tumultuous experience of adolescent relationships .
Once again, our adult readers’ reactions are across the spectrum. Interestingly, this time, the teens thoughts on the book are also mixed. Some readers appreciated the authenticity of Sethie’s voice, while others appreciated the writing but had trouble with the portrayal of substance use and sexuality. All of us agreed, however, that this is not a fast and easy read. “The Stone Girl” makes you think, even if you can’t relate or don’t particularly like to Sethie’s ordeal. Mothers with mature teen daughters, especially, should consider reading the book together and discussing Sethie’s struggle to cope with all of these tough issues.
Special thanks to Random House for providing us all a copy of the book to read. If you are interested in winning a copy of the book, please leave a comment telling us why you’d like to read the book and enter the Rafflecopter below.
“Young” Reader Average: B
Lily graded the book an A
Sethie is anorexic, even if she won’t admit to herself, she knows it’s into her starving body. But Sethie isn’t just starving in the typical sense; she starves for perfect grades, the perfect boyfriend, and the perfect body. But how far can she push herself before she starves away altogether?
This book was not an easy read for me, while the words flowed and the plot kept me engaged, I ached for Sethie. I completely understand how she feels, though. I was the beanpole until 6th grade, when puberty arrived and I grew curves. I began to notice how fat would cling to my hips while other girls would stay slim. Although I never went to the lengths that Sethie did, this book really struck home with me in terms of the insecurities and jealousy that Sethie feels.
Kiersten graded the book a B+
I did not love “Stone Girl.” I understand that there are some people out there that actually do have these types of problems, and I know that there are people that need friends to help them through their problems, but I just did not find the book very interesting. I would give it a B+.
Meredith graded the book a C+
“The Stone Girl” by Alyssa B. Sheinmel is one of the most interesting books I’ve read. The book is about a girl named Sethie who struggles with relationships with friends and boys and also struggles with anorexia. Throughout the book she is getting over a “non-boyfriend” and trying to keep her best friend Jane. Jane is naturally skinny in the way Sethie has always been jealous of. She describes the many things that she does as an anorexic such as planning tiny meals, throwing up bigger meals and drinking water in under 20 minutes, and etc.
I was not personally a huge fan of this book. Anorexia is a serious problem with many teenage girls, and I think that “The Stone Girl” made being anorexic easier than it is. At first I even thought, “Wow that sounds pretty simple, not so bad.” But then they mention how sick she looks, and she becomes very odd. I wish this book had aimed more towards the recovery of her realizing anorexia was bad and unhealthy.
“Adult” Reader Average: B-
Amanda graded the book a B+
Alyssa Sheinmel immerses us in the world of an adolescent girl, named Sethie, who struggles deeply with her self-image. The readers find themselves experiencing the pains of anorexia and bulimia, while simultaneously experiencing the need to be loved and cared for, and choosing the wrong outlets to fill these desires. What’s so powerful about this book is that young women go through many of the same feelings as Sethie, but I felt the moral message behind the story was lacking. Although this book does an eloquent job of telling a story and taking us through the pains of Sethie’s life, the ending felt rushed and did not provide much closure. An adolescent, experiencing similar emotions,would not receive adequate direction for overcoming these issues. As a result, I have a difficult time identifying a young adult target audience for this book. An emotionally confused teenager might take the wrong message from this book and use ideas given to us by the author, very much like Sethie did in taking ideas from anorexic posters, to help become “thin.” The reader might be left feeling unsatisfied about how the issues presented in this book were solved by the author. Although I give this book a B+ for writing style, I would give it a D on moral message and closure.
Cassie graded the book a B
Alyssa Sheinmel brings us a book about a teenage girl who struggles with eating disorders, but not in the usual way. Sethie is struggling with more than just her weight and thinking she’s fat — she also has self-esteem issues and is stuck in a bad relationship, and all of these things contribute to the things that Sethie struggles with over the course of the novel.
What I appreciated most about this book was the lack of firm definition that pervaded the whole narrative. I love the idea of following a girl who is neither a full-blown anorexic nor a full-blown bulimic, and forcing the reader to acknowledge that people don’t often perfectly fit our definitions. I loved that Sethie didn’t see herself as anorexic or bulimic because she wasn’t either of those things all the time. I think that’s an important distinction for us to make in terms of this issue — a person doesn’t have to meet every point on a checklist to need help. This novel, to me, really showed the in-between people who suffer from eating disorders, the ones who might fall through the cracks because they aren’t fully one or the other.
I also appreciated the way that the novel was told. Sethie’s narrative voice is very passive, almost disconnected from the story she’s telling, but to me, that works, because Sethie herself is disconnected from the story she’s telling. She sees herself and her life very differently than other people do, and to read her detached view of a scene, and then later hear another character describe the same scene in completely different terms really helped bring Sethie’s disconnect to light. To me, this novel was told very effectively, and it brings up some important issues for teenagers and those who work with teenagers to be aware of.
Cara graded the book a B-
Going into her senior year at a prestigious New York City all girls prep school, Sethie struggles with body image issues. As the year progresses, her emotional state and personal relationships degenerate as she becomes more and more obsessed with her weight and appearance.
When I received this book, I was interested to see how the author demonstrated the hot topic issue of eating disorders. They are not something I have faced personally, but I have seen their devastating effects on friends. I wish I could say that after having read it, I feel I have had a glimpse into the mind of a person who battles these demons, but I really don’t.
This book was written in the third person, however we only see Sethie’s point of view. I feel this was a serious detriment to my involvement in her story. If ever a story called out for first person narrative, this is it. The bigger issue for me, though, is that this book tried too hard to be too many things. While it’s easy to say it’s about a girl with an eating disorder, so little of the book is actually spent delving into her thoughts about it. A considerable amount of time is spent on the three significant relationships in her life, her boyfriend, best friend and mother. However, we still don’t see enough of any of these to make a real connection.
I wanted to like this book more because I do feel the author can turn a phrase. She created a believable character in a flawed and interesting world. I definitely saw myself in some of her actions, I was that self-destructive teenager, but I left this book wanting. And not in a good way.
Diana graded the book a B-
Alyssa B. Sheinmel has given us a book that delves into the mind of Sethie, a seventeen year old who is anorexic and bulimic. Sethie takes the typical insecurities that most teenage girls feel into a much deeper level. Her insecurities are part of why she is caught up in an eating disorder. I would’ve loved to have learned more about eating disorders, but this book fell short. While we do learn some of what drives Sethie, it doesn’t quite deliver. There didn’t seem to be enough character development and I could never truly care about Sethie. Most of the time I was frustrated by her behavior.
I did like her relationship with Janey her friend. Although Jane first helps Sethie with her disorder, she later tries to help her. When Jane realizes how deeply Sethie is into her disorder, she tries everything she can to continue to communicate with her. I thought she was a truly supportive best friend. I would have enjoyed it more if her character had been fleshed out a bit more.
Overall, Sheinmel’s story speaks to a very important topic, and I hope that girls will realize that this is a serious disorder.
Keely graded the book a C-
Sethie is a 17- year-old girl who’s fighting a battle within herself to be thin enough and thereby pretty enough to be liked – but mostly – to be loved. Her home life is less than ideal – absent father, barely visible mother and no siblings leaving Sethie largely to her own devices. In searching for acceptance and love – Sethie who is already anorexic falls in with a less than desirable crowd and this is when we see her start to slip and slide deeper into her eating disorder.
Sethie is a compelling character – she seems real, her pain and anguish palpable. You can feel her slipping ever deeper inward as the story unfolds. Alyssa Sheinmel does a masterful job with her main character in almost every aspect; painting a vivid portrait of an emotionally troubled young woman searching for acceptance through self-harm until the end of the book.
The characters surrounding Sethie seem unfinished and full of contradictions: the best friend who encourages Sethie’s descent further into her eating disorder and then is the proponent of her healing, a boy who could love her and be her friend who vanishes when Sethie is at her lowest point, and a mother who is oblivious to her daughter’s disease and does so very little to help her.
Ultimately though it is how Sethie handles herself at the end of the book that really diminished the work Sheinmel put into her tragic character. Beautifully constructed flawed and struggling Sethie makes a dramatic change at the end of the book that feels rushed and out of character.
A difficult topic, lackluster development of secondary characters and an inconsistent main character and ending left me feeling very ambivalent about The Stone Girl. There was a tremendous amount of potential for Sethie and her story and the writing is compelling, but ultimately, in my mind, it fails to really deliver.