Changing Ways – Julia Tannenbaum

Grace is 16 and a junior at Chuck L. Everett High School (“Chuckles”) in western Connecticut. She lives with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, and misses her father. She’s trying out for Varsity soccer this year.

I’ve never been satisfied with how I look – even when I was younger, I was self-conscious of my appearance. Now that I’m older, those insecurities are more profound than ever.

Recently Grace has secretly been self harming and restricting her food intake. When another student catches her self harming at school Grace winds up hospitalised.

“I don’t know what’s making me do it. That’s the problem.”

Grace is fortunate that her treatment begins a lot sooner than it does for most people but this doesn’t mean recovery will be easy. I appreciated that recovery from eating disorders and self harm were portrayed realistically. Grace’s isn’t a success only journey. Recovery isn’t linear and there are setbacks along the way.

Grace’s best friend, Lou, is “bold and strong-willed and brutally honest”. Lou’s mother is undergoing treatment for stage 4 breast cancer, although the gravity of this didn’t hit the mark for me.

The way Grace’s mother’s boyfriend was introduced made it seem like he was going to be detrimental to their family dynamic but this didn’t really go anywhere.

While the conversations between Grace, her family and Lou flowed well, those that took place in a treatment setting tended to feel more like therapy speak than what you’d expect between a group of teenagers dealing with such difficult issues. I found most of the other patients interchangeable, not really getting a sense of who they were outside of their diagnoses.

I think I would have gotten into this book more if I’d read it as a teenager. It may also have helped if I hadn’t already read other books that have addressed eating disorders and self harm in a way that grabbed me more on an emotional level.

Unfortunately, while I applaud the author for tackling such difficult and personal subject matter, I never forgot that I was reading a book written by a teenager. If I’d written a book while I was a teenager I expect it would have much the same feel to it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I am interested to see how the author’s writing develops over time.

Content warnings include bullying, eating disorders, mental illness, self harm, slut shaming, suicidal ideation and mention of addiction, conversion therapy and sexual assault.

Thank you to NetGalley and Wicked Whale Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Growing up sucks. Struggling to cope with the constant stress of school, her mother, and her confusing social life, sixteen-year-old Grace Edwards finds sanity in the most destructive of ways: dieting and self-harming. But just when Grace thinks she has everything under control, a classmate catches her cutting in the girls’ locker room, and Grace’s entire life is flipped upside down.

Now she’s faced with the unthinkable – a stint in a psych ward with kids who seem so much worse than she is. After all, she’s not sick. She’s totally okay. She’ll never do it again. But the longer Grace stays, the more she realises that the kids in the ward aren’t that different from her.

Slowly Grace comes to terms with her mental illness, but as her discharge date crawls closer, she knows that the outside world is an unpredictable place … and one which whispers temptations about hidden food, dangerous objects, and failure to stay in recovery.

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