This week, I’m tackling a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart: eating disorders. I’ll be taking on Hannah Moskowitz’s Not Otherwise Specified, a story about Etta: a teenage girl stuck in a small hometown and stuck in the liminal space between worlds.
As it reads on the back cover:
Etta is tired of dealing with all the labels and categories that seem to important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels like she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere–until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?
This novel seems like it’s going to be both a self-discovery novel and a love story rolled into one. I’m expecting Bianca and Etta at some point to admit feelings for each other, and for their relationship to be tried by the strain of two people in recovery from a dangerous disease.
Like I said, this subject hits very close to home. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating for several years, this kind of a story is something that I would have loved to pick up during high school. Knowing that other kids–other black kids–experienced eating disorders and struggled with their sexuality, I wouldn’t have felt so isolated in my experience. I’m hoping that this book addresses the tension between what people think Etta should be, who she really is, and who she wants to be. I’m fairly certain that Bianca will play a large part in who Etta wants to be, and I’m excited to see how Etta can go about helping Bianca save herself.
I’m both excited and nervous to bite into this story. I’m anxious for the story to be told respectfully, and from a point of view that doesn’t glorify disordered eating habits, but rather explains them and helps to dissolve some of the stigma behind eating disorders.
If you have any questions about this book, or you yourself are struggling, please reach out. I look forward to reporting back to you next week about Etta and Bianca’s journeys.