This week I read “Running Lean” by Diana L. Sharples, a young-adult work of fiction that addresses adolescent issues. This particular novel addressed anorexia and disordered eating. As I read it, I found it was reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s work, such as “Speak,” “Catalyst” and especially “Wintergirls.”
The plot surrounded a serious teen relationship between Calvin and Stacey, two high school students. Calvin’s brother had recently died and Stacey was there to support him him. Stacey, however, was unsure of herself and her future and uses Calvin as a crutch for confidence.
As the school year progresses, Calvin notices Stacey’s behavior becoming more erratic. He recognizes some of the symptoms of an eating disorder and he tries with all his might to help her. Like a textbook sufferer of an eating disorder, Stacey continues with her denial, clinging to her equally unstable friend, Zoe, for support. Eventually, Stacey’s downward spiral catches up with both of them.
The cast of characters was chock full of insecure, unstable adolescents. Calvin’s two friends, Flannery and Tyler were supportive of him and his struggles with Stacey and her anorexia. The adults in the book were virtually clueless, and were too heavily involved in their own struggles to help Calvin and Stacey. For the most part, siblings and friends were there to support Calvin and Stacey through their struggles.
Typical of adolescent fiction, parental figures are either clueless, dysfunctional, negligent or smothering. While teen fiction is peppered with “issue-awareness” novels, whether they’re about drug use, child abuse, eating disorders, bullying or alcoholism, the adolescent protagonist can never turn to their parents for help, for one reason or another. It’s unfortunate that teen fiction continues to portray parental figures as out-of-touch and unrelatable.
Calvin’s perspective through about half of the book was unique to young-adult fiction novels about eating disorders. In “Wintergirls” by Laurie Halse Anderson, the protagonist, Lia, is on her own throughout the novel, without an alternative perspective. Seeing Calvin struggle with Stacey’s eating disorder, almost as much as she was, gives a fresher look to young adult drama.