Tuesday, June 19, 2018
On The Spectrum, by Jennifer Gold. Second Story Press, 2017. $13.95 ages 12 and up
" I eat butter all the time, and
I'm only in the twenty-fifth
percentile for weight for my
age. The doctor said so."
"Well, not all of us are that
lucky," I snapped.
"Why is that lucky?" Now he
"If I ate a lot of butter, I would
get fat," I said flatly. "I'm not
skinny like you. So I don't ... "
Living in New York as the daughter of a charismatic and famous ballerina has not always been easy for Clara. She, like many girls, wants to emulate her glamorous mother whose strict and unrealistic rules about food have been part of Clara's life from a young age. Unfortunately, those rules have resulted in the 16 year old's orthorexia ... defined as an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy. Eating healthy and being active is not a problem until it becomes an obsession that defines everything Clara does.
When things go wrong on social media, Clara makes a decision to spend the summer in Paris with a father she has rarely seen, and his new family. Her half-brother Alastair is 6 and autistic. Spending days with him is a brand new experience for Clara, and offers life lessons that prove meaningful for all. She also meets Michel, a 20 year old pastry chef who steals her heart. Michel obviously loves food, and Alastair has some very honest opinions about Clara's relationship with it. Buoyed by their concern for her health, she is able to look more closely at decisions she is making.
In this story of love, family, acceptance and being patient with oneself, we meet a cast of strong characters. The pacing make it a book that holds attention and offers hope for the future. The fact that the two main characters - Clara and Alastair - are each dealing with being different evokes empathy and understanding for those who read their story. It is very interesting to see the world so clearly through their eyes. The Parisian setting, the development of character, Clara's first person voice, the honest dialogue, and the willingness to include bumps along the path to a happier, more loving family won me over.