The television show Red Band Society premiered in the fall of 2014. It was not renewed for a second season; however, I found the premise intriguing: a group of teens who live in the hospital, each trying to outlive their disease and attempt a semblance of normal teenage life. They sneak out of the hospital, cover for each other, date and break up and have struggles with their families just like any other teens.
Emma is one of the teen patients in the hospital. She struggles with anorexia, and near the end of the season she’s released from the hospital, only to relapse and end up back in her room a short while later. Emma is quiet and smart and has a lot of time on her hands, so if she asked me for something to read, these are the books I would recommend to her:
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
This story of Lia and Cassie’s descent into anorexia and Lia’s struggle to survive would resonate with Emma and her own battle against anorexia. It isn’t a happy story, but it’s an important one. Emma is ready to fight against her disease, and Wintergirls might encourage her to keep fighting.
Colette and Sadie used to be best friends until Sadie suddenly stopped speaking to Colette. Now Sadie wants Colette to join her and her family on an international vacation. Emma would identify with Colette’s need to appear perfect to everyone in her life, and also with her confusion when past secrets become known.
45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson
Ann’s mother is obsessed with her weight, and Ann has followed in her footsteps. She is trying to lose weight before her aunt’s wedding, until she realizes the effect her obsession is having on her family. Emma would identify with Ann, especially as Ann notices her obsession effecting her younger siblings. Emma’s younger sister is definitely effected by Emma’s long-term hospital stay and struggle with anorexia, so this is a book I’d give Emma to read.
Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters
Alix is distraught when her girlfriend dies, but when she recovers Swanee’s phone and finds text messages to another girl, she begins to wonder if maybe Swanee hadn’t been telling her the whole truth. The mystery element of this story would spark Emma’s interest, while the relationship drama would resonate with her, especially considering the relationship drama she’s facing in her own life.
There is not one scene of Emma attending a support group for people struggling with anorexia, so as a part of her virtual support group, I would give her Elena Vanishing, the memoir of Elena Dunkle’s struggle with anorexia. I could also give Emma’s mom a copy of Elena’s mother’s memoir, Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother’s Life with a Daughter’s Anorexia.
Emma is a fairly quiet character on the show, so it’s hard to guess what she’d like to read. I would start with the above list, and if she wasn’t interested in those books, I’d find her a few more in the hope that something would strike her fancy. Many of these books would be good bibliotherapy for Emma and for others who struggle with eating disorders, but I would definitely give Emma books that have nothing to do with anorexia as well, so she can understand that I know she is more than just her disease.
— Jenni Frencham, currently reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera