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Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

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Why would a talented young woman enter into a torrid affair with hunger, drugs, sex, and death? Through five lengthy hospital stays, endless therapy, and the loss of family, friends, jobs, and all sense of what it means to be "normal," Marya Hornbacher lovingly embraced her anorexia and bulimia -- until a particularly horrifying bout with the disease in college put the Why would a talented young woman enter into a torrid affair with hunger, drugs, sex, and death? Through five lengthy hospital stays, endless therapy, and the loss of family, friends, jobs, and all sense of what it means to be "normal," Marya Hornbacher lovingly embraced her anorexia and bulimia -- until a particularly horrifying bout with the disease in college put the romance of wasting away to rest forever. A vivid, honest, and emotionally wrenching memoir, Wasted is the story of one woman's travels to reality's darker side -- and her decision to find her way back on her own terms.


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Why would a talented young woman enter into a torrid affair with hunger, drugs, sex, and death? Through five lengthy hospital stays, endless therapy, and the loss of family, friends, jobs, and all sense of what it means to be "normal," Marya Hornbacher lovingly embraced her anorexia and bulimia -- until a particularly horrifying bout with the disease in college put the Why would a talented young woman enter into a torrid affair with hunger, drugs, sex, and death? Through five lengthy hospital stays, endless therapy, and the loss of family, friends, jobs, and all sense of what it means to be "normal," Marya Hornbacher lovingly embraced her anorexia and bulimia -- until a particularly horrifying bout with the disease in college put the romance of wasting away to rest forever. A vivid, honest, and emotionally wrenching memoir, Wasted is the story of one woman's travels to reality's darker side -- and her decision to find her way back on her own terms.

30 review for Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia

  1. 5 out of 5

    Esmeralda Rupp-Spangle

    Possibly the finest auto-biography I have ever read. People who have suffered from EDs will complain that this book is packed full of triggers, but so is America's Next Top Model, and I can't say anything about the quality of THAT writing. This book is a genuine, gripping story of a youth literally thrown away in favor of madness. For anyone who has not suffered from some incarnation of disordered eating, it will seem surreal, and at times, utterly unbelievable. The book is effortlessly fluid. Possibly the finest auto-biography I have ever read. People who have suffered from EDs will complain that this book is packed full of triggers, but so is America's Next Top Model, and I can't say anything about the quality of THAT writing. This book is a genuine, gripping story of a youth literally thrown away in favor of madness. For anyone who has not suffered from some incarnation of disordered eating, it will seem surreal, and at times, utterly unbelievable. The book is effortlessly fluid. The story moves along at a perfect pace, with enough detail to give a horrifying sense of understanding, but not so much as to become preachy or dull. Most of the other characters seem two dimensional, but you get the impression that they seemed that way to her at the time- as though they were experienced in a dream. "Wasted" follows the life of the author from her strange and sudden plunge into anorexia and bulimia as a child, all the way to her current state of semi-recovery. She goes from moderately neurotic, to waiting patiently at death's doorstop, to being almost normal, recounting for us, her audience, all the stops along the way. She goes through an utterly excruciating journey, and finally comes out the other end- not intact, and not happily ever after, but alive. It is both victorious and tragic, disturbing and moving, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  2. 4 out of 5

    stephanie

    eta: i think it's important to note that this book was first published in 1998 - when things like tumblr did not exist. for a generation that learned to get all information from books, this book was the key to tricks and tips for anorexia. not that you couldn't figure them out for yourself, but if you were on the edge or something, this gave you ways. i don't actually say that this book should be censored, i say i wish there was a way to put warnings on it. i say i think it's an important book eta: i think it's important to note that this book was first published in 1998 - when things like tumblr did not exist. for a generation that learned to get all information from books, this book was the key to tricks and tips for anorexia. not that you couldn't figure them out for yourself, but if you were on the edge or something, this gave you ways. i don't actually say that this book should be censored, i say i wish there was a way to put warnings on it. i say i think it's an important book for non-ED people - i.e. family and friends. and i do think it's important for people with EDs, i just don't like the framing all that much. that is a personal preference. see my reviews of elizabeth wurtzel's books - i have issues with people with mental illness who seem to lack agency in getting better. hornbacher isn't 100% committed to getting better at the end of this. she isn't committed to recovery. and that's fine, for her, but i wish she hadn't written it until she was committed. everything else in the book remains true, and i think would have resonated more and been stronger if she was committed - not necessarily a "happily ever after" but a "anything to stop this disease". (the kind of ironic thing is that she does get the happily ever after.) what i loved about Madness: A Bipolar Life was that i felt like she truly tapped into what was driving her to do the things she did. that she finally was brutally honest, that she committed to getting better. honestly, "crazypeoplememoirs" always walk a fine line between sensationalist literature, victimization, fact and moralizing. i appreciate the story. i appreciate the willingness to show the bald face of EDs. but i still question why this is the book she chose to write, who she intended her audience to be, and what she hoped to accomplish. because i think the author that wrote wasted would have different opinions than the author of madness, or sane, and i do think that's worth considering. (and, for the record, i have done extensive work with women in their teens and older with EDs. i said 25 not because i don't think people older can suffer from it, but rather that they are already aware of all the tricks and tips. these illnesses are absolutely devastating, and they exist, and i think there is a balance society needs to start dealing with in terms of celebrating thin women and calling healthy women "fat" or on pregnancy watch, and that this book deals with the "strength" required to have an ED, and not necessarily the elements of self-hatred and comorbid diagnoses and beliefs that lead a lot of women (and men) to develop EDs.) * 2005: i think this book should be pulled from the shelves of most bookstores, or at least not giving to anyone under the age of 25, but i am against censorship, so mostly i just wish this wasn't the book she chose to write. for a non-ED audience, it plays well. the story is gripping, it goes into detail about the horror of living with an ED, it discusses why the ED is so hard to give up. for the ED audience, the book is literally packed with tricks and tips and ways to cheat and get around your doctors. hornbacher claims that the point of writing the book was to deglamourize EDs. the problem is, even she, at the end of the book, has not fully committed to giving up her ED. how can you write a book saying there is nothing good about EDs without resolving to give it up yourself? i have heard people talk about how they appreciated her "brutal honesty" - to me it read more as an attention-seeking method of writing. to me, she made herself out as a victim, and she is still a victim at the end - she still does not have control over her disorder. of course, the ending is very true to real life. recovery is a painful, long process with frequent relapses, especially for those who have been hospitalized. but instead of exploring why that is the case, she spends her time talking about how she cheated the system. she does not give up her basic system of beliefs that "caused" the ED in the first place. she is unapologetic and, to me, paints herself as someone without any agency in the recovery of ED, which infuriates me. it's sad, because i think she has a lot of really good things to say. she just chooses to take a different route, kind of the sensationalistic route rather than the "de-glamourization" she claims to have wanted. it was disappointing to me, and it was frustrating, and it worried me that kids with ED are recommending this book to each other in order to find tips and "thinspiration". i don't know, i found it profoundly depressing, which hardly ever happens. i guess i just feel like it was such a wasted (pardon the bad pun) opportunity to make a positive impact on the ED community. (i agree with whoever said stay away from this book if you are in recovery and go visit something-fishy.com instead.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andy Marr

    I've put off reviewing this book for some time on account of the fact Marya's both a close friend and the editor of my first novel Hunger for Life. But having reminded myself that I read the book long before Marya and I became friends, and that it meant a great to me even before we got to know one another, I think I can justify writing a few words here. It was my younger sister, Seonaid, who introduced me to the novel, back in 2007. She had recently read the book herself, and was keen for me to I've put off reviewing this book for some time on account of the fact Marya's both a close friend and the editor of my first novel Hunger for Life. But having reminded myself that I read the book long before Marya and I became friends, and that it meant a great to me even before we got to know one another, I think I can justify writing a few words here. It was my younger sister, Seonaid, who introduced me to the novel, back in 2007. She had recently read the book herself, and was keen for me to do the same, as she believed it might help me to understand the eating disorder that had already plagued her for more than 15 years. Over the course of the following weekend, I read the entire story of Marya's ten-year struggle with anorexia and bulimia. It was - is - a no-holds-barred account of life with an eating disorder, a terrifying narrative of a young woman's gradual and deliberate path towards self-destruction, and it left me in pieces for weeks afterwards. But here's the thing: despite the pain it caused, it really did help me understand the illness better, and in doing so it brought me closer once more to Seonaid. She died, aged 32, in the summer of 2016 after battling anorexia for over 20 years, but even through my grief, I remain grateful to this memoir for teaching me how to remain strong and patient in the face of this most heartbreaking and cruel disease. I've read a good many more books about eating disorders since this one, but 'Wasted' remains one of the two best books I've read on the subject (the other is Katie Green's incredible graphic novel, Lighter Than My Shadow). It's certainly not an easy read, and reading it WILL leave you feeling shattered, but for anybody looking to understand the mindset of an ED sufferer, you won't find a better source than this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    I read this book when it was first released ---(its 'very' disturbing). I wouldn't know how many stars to give it actually. I never like to 'rate' memoirs in the first place. I can't give it 5 stars --I can't give it 1 star ---(so I went for 3) ----but I'll never forget the story. Eating disorders are a disease. Marya Hornbacher does not sugar-coat 'anything'. People who have suffered anorexic --(or been a parent of a child) --'lived' this life deeply may 'not' want to read this book. NO SOLID I read this book when it was first released ---(its 'very' disturbing). I wouldn't know how many stars to give it actually. I never like to 'rate' memoirs in the first place. I can't give it 5 stars --I can't give it 1 star ---(so I went for 3) ----but I'll never forget the story. Eating disorders are a disease. Marya Hornbacher does not sugar-coat 'anything'. People who have suffered anorexic --(or been a parent of a child) --'lived' this life deeply may 'not' want to read this book. NO SOLID answers --NO SOLID solutions to HOW to REALLY end this disease (at least at the time when this book was written). I believe MUCH more scientific-base-information-(from real chemical imbalance) - is making the biggest difference into this disease today. I've a friend (medical doctor) --doing some wonderful research now --(putting together programs which were much different than just 15 years ago). -- Things our daughter 'rejected' (5 times in hospital programs) -- were for good reasons. The were being 'feed' foods which their bodies WERE reacting to. 'diet' was NOT being considered ---(they were being 'forced' to eat anything given to them --dead -processed hospital food) --- We've learned these people (more than most) ---need a very 'clean' whole food diet ---(allergy checking--etc). I hope to god this author, Marya is doing well today. I haven't kept up with her. Our own daughter (who suffered for 14 years) ---is THRIVING --doing WONDERFUL --- She healed herself HER way! It took 14 years ---but she is strong -bright -independent-supporting herself --32 years old --beautiful --(very talented to boot). Wishing all that suffer with eating disorders to get the help THEY need to get well!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    3.5 stars I once had an eating disorder several years ago, so I appreciate Marya Hornbacher's unflinching honesty in Wasted. She holds nothing back in this memoir, sharing the immense pain that accompanies anorexia and bulimia: the preoccupation with calories that takes over your life, the obsession with food that steals your energy from your passions, and the shame and guilt that comes with not feeling strong enough to resist your disorder. Published in 1997, Wasted may have very well served as 3.5 stars I once had an eating disorder several years ago, so I appreciate Marya Hornbacher's unflinching honesty in Wasted. She holds nothing back in this memoir, sharing the immense pain that accompanies anorexia and bulimia: the preoccupation with calories that takes over your life, the obsession with food that steals your energy from your passions, and the shame and guilt that comes with not feeling strong enough to resist your disorder. Published in 1997, Wasted may have very well served as one of this country's first exposures to eating disorders. Thus, I applaud Hornbacher's courage in providing us with such a raw and vulnerable look into her life. Here is one quote about the emotional upheaval that often underlies and contributes to the development of eating disorders: "All of us carry around countless bags of dusty old knickknacks dated from childhood: collected resentments, long lists of wounds of greater or lesser significance, glorified memories, absolute certainties that later turn out to be wrong. Humans are emotional pack rats. These bags define us. My baggage made me someone I did not want to be: a cringing girl, a sensitive plant, a needy greedy sort of thing. I began, at an early age, to try to rid myself o my bags. I began to construct a new role. I made a plan. When I was six, I wrote it down with my green calligraphy pen and buried it in the backyard. My plan: To get thin. To be great. To get out." Despite my appreciation for Hornbacher's memoir as a whole, I did not enjoy its lack of organization. She jumps around between times and settings in an often incomprehensible way. Her prose has a tendency to fall into an unrefined stream of consciousness that trends more toward unfiltered emotional catharsis than an understandable conception of her life. You could say that this messy writing highlights the disorientation that comes with an eating disorder. However, I would argue that writers have an obligation to readers - in particular to vulnerable, younger readers - to do their best to display some of their healing alongside their pain, or at least their path toward healing. This lack of emphasis on recovery makes me skeptical of Hornbacher's motives. Of course, I believe her narrative and feel honored and awed that she shared it with us. At the same time, in some ways Wasted glorifies eating disorders instead of portraying them as horrid illnesses we must strive to prevent and rail against. I wish that Hornbacher had spent more time describing her recovery, as well as the joys and challenges that accompanied it. I will end this review with a passage toward the very end of the book, about strength: "It is not a sudden leap from sick to well. It is a slow, strange meander from sick to mostly well. The misconception that eating disorders are a medical disease in the traditional sense is not helpful here. There is no 'cure.' A pill will not fix it, though it may help. Ditto therapy, ditto food, ditto endless support from family and friends. You fix it yourself. It is the hardest thing that I have ever done, and I found myself stronger for doing it. Much stronger. Never, never underestimate the power of desire. If you want to live badly enough, you can live."

  6. 4 out of 5

    sara

    It would be tacky to put this on my "food" shelf, wouldn't it? But I did get so hungry while reading it that I got up and made spaghetti carbonara. It was delicious. So this is a memoir of the author's ten-year struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I found it different from other works I've read on eating disorders, in that the author doesn't go for easy explanations of why she almost killed herself. She wasn't trying to be pretty or perfect or to control her world, at least not solely. She was It would be tacky to put this on my "food" shelf, wouldn't it? But I did get so hungry while reading it that I got up and made spaghetti carbonara. It was delicious. So this is a memoir of the author's ten-year struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I found it different from other works I've read on eating disorders, in that the author doesn't go for easy explanations of why she almost killed herself. She wasn't trying to be pretty or perfect or to control her world, at least not solely. She was really, acutely mentally ill, and that recovery is as big a problem as the physical illnesses associated with the eating disorder. I found the book self-indulgent, arrogant, and obnoxiously smug in places, but honest and lacerating in others. Sometimes all five at once. This isn't a perfectly written book—reviewers swooned over her prose when she wrote it at 23, but in my opinion Hornbacher could have used a good, judicious editor to cut down some of her babbling bullshit. It's an impressive effort, though. I was curious when I finished if the author is still alive, because the book was published almost 10 years ago. She is, and has another memoir coming out next spring that fills in where this one left off. I'm not sure if I want to spend any more time inside her head, but I'm intrigued.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Marya is a fantastic fucking memoirist. There are a couple reasons this is all the more incredible: First, that she'd found such a voice and command of prose at 23, and second, that a 23 year-old would have lived a life worth writing about. The language is appropriately jagged, with short, sharp sentences, embodying a sparse, terrifying narrative of the scattered moments recalling her gradual and deliberate self-destruction. She spares no one, including herself, in her examination of the causes Marya is a fantastic fucking memoirist. There are a couple reasons this is all the more incredible: First, that she'd found such a voice and command of prose at 23, and second, that a 23 year-old would have lived a life worth writing about. The language is appropriately jagged, with short, sharp sentences, embodying a sparse, terrifying narrative of the scattered moments recalling her gradual and deliberate self-destruction. She spares no one, including herself, in her examination of the causes and effects of her disorder. She stops briefly, as objectively as a memoirist could be expected to, on the childhood memories that grew to define her outlook. But, rather than simply laying the blame on someone's doorstep, she perpetually questions her own rationales after the fact, never dwelling on what might have been had one thing or another not happened. It's possible, she allows, that there's no environmental cause at all.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tima

    Edited to add disclaimer. PLEASE err on the side of extreme caution if you are recovering from ED or were planning to share this book with a young person who may be in a vulnerable position. As someone who has struggled from an ED myself, I can say that this book contains many things that could trigger you. It also contains graphic detail of how to hide food, how to get rid of food, how to trick people, etc. Basic Summary: Well, I think the title sort of covers it. It's a memoir of the author's Edited to add disclaimer. PLEASE err on the side of extreme caution if you are recovering from ED or were planning to share this book with a young person who may be in a vulnerable position. As someone who has struggled from an ED myself, I can say that this book contains many things that could trigger you. It also contains graphic detail of how to hide food, how to get rid of food, how to trick people, etc. Basic Summary: Well, I think the title sort of covers it. It's a memoir of the author's hellish descent into the dark world of Anorexia and Bulimia. The Pros: I think this is an important book, a book that really needed to be written and put in the hands of everyone. If I thought he would understand, I would hand this off to my boyfriend and tell him that every girl healthy or not has felt similar to Marya in their lives, in their judgments of themselves, their food, etc. Not many to her extent, but I would say this book can strike a chord with just about all women to some degree. I admire her forthrightness, her bluntness and her bravery for writing this book. I, especially, think the last 20 pages of her book are very powerful. Just for their striking honesty and the light they shed on the after math of a life ravaged by eating disorders, often silently. By rule, I almost never give 5-star ratings to even my favorite books, but, I had to pull one out for this book. The Cons: She is not a natural writer, in my opinion. If Lynne Truss (author of grammar book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation) were to see this book I fear she would fall into cardiac arrest. It's an abomination on the English language. She has a Thing About seemingly Random Capitalization and abundant "use" of "quotations" that are arbitrary. Sometimes in the middle of! a sentence she will use an exclamation point where I think italics might have done the trick. She has footnotes which are, at times, used just fine and mark a specific article/study/author/etc. Other times, as I just read, the footnote is nearly half a page long and just seems like she should have included it in regular print as a part of her story. (As, the footnotes are generally her elaborating on a subject. Which, in a memoir, does not usually warrant a long footnote but rather a new paragraph instead). As you see, these are technical notes and nitpicks. I have no qualms about her subject or story. Memorable Quotations: 1) "I hold my breath and shut my eyes when I pull on a pair [of jeans] in the dressing room, afraid they will now, as then, get stuck at my hips and there i will stand, absurd, staring at the excess of hips that should, if I were a good person, be "slim". " 2) "Bear in mind, people with eating disorders tend to be both competitive and intelligent. We are incredibly perfectionistic. We often excel in school, athletics, artistic pursuits. We also tend to quit without warning. Refuse to go to school, drop out, quit jobs, leave lovers, move, lose all our money. We get sick of being impressive. Rather, we tire of having to seem impressive. As a rule, most of never really believed we were any good in the first place." 3) "I was really annoyed when told I was going to die and rather petulantly went, Well fuck you then I won't". - After being told she would only have a week left to live, at 52 pounds.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I'm ambivalent about this book. Certainly, at times, she pulled no punches...yet at other times, still a bit under the sway of her disorder, she seemed to be bragging about her "successes" in the extremes of her eating disorder. She wasn't really healthy yet, and that came through in ways she probably never intended. In many ways, it helped me understand how eating disorders work. In other ways (again, I'm sure unintentional on the author's part), I began to understand how eating disorders and I'm ambivalent about this book. Certainly, at times, she pulled no punches...yet at other times, still a bit under the sway of her disorder, she seemed to be bragging about her "successes" in the extremes of her eating disorder. She wasn't really healthy yet, and that came through in ways she probably never intended. In many ways, it helped me understand how eating disorders work. In other ways (again, I'm sure unintentional on the author's part), I began to understand how eating disorders and personality disorders can often go hand in hand. But by the end of the book, I just really didn't like her very much. You know how sometimes brutal honesty can feel disingenuous, as if meant to distract or redirect your attention from something else? It felt a bit like that.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara Batkie

    God, there is nothing more tedious than a personal narrative that just goes on and on and on. I admire Ms. Hornbacher's willingness to put everything out there, but I find much of what she writes terribly suspect. Reading it from a non-eating-disordered perspective, I had to wonder if people who had been through this picked it up and thought "wow, that's just what I went through" or "hey, what a good idea, I never thought of doing that". Plus I'm not sure if the fact she's not yet over her God, there is nothing more tedious than a personal narrative that just goes on and on and on. I admire Ms. Hornbacher's willingness to put everything out there, but I find much of what she writes terribly suspect. Reading it from a non-eating-disordered perspective, I had to wonder if people who had been through this picked it up and thought "wow, that's just what I went through" or "hey, what a good idea, I never thought of doing that". Plus I'm not sure if the fact she's not yet over her illness helps or hurts her point. I wanted to sympathize, I really did, but by the end, I just kinda wanted to give her and her entire family one giant bitch slap. I apologize if that sounds heartless.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    My relationship with this book is love/hate. It kind of reminds me of Prozac Nation in the sense that the first couple chapters about her average middle-class childhood are pretty boring and pointless. She tries to describe every little bad thing that happened to her like she is the only one in the world who ever received less than perfect parenting. However keep reading because unlike Prozac Nation this book actually gets pretty good as time goes on and you get into the shocking rock-bottom My relationship with this book is love/hate. It kind of reminds me of Prozac Nation in the sense that the first couple chapters about her average middle-class childhood are pretty boring and pointless. She tries to describe every little bad thing that happened to her like she is the only one in the world who ever received less than perfect parenting. However keep reading because unlike Prozac Nation this book actually gets pretty good as time goes on and you get into the shocking rock-bottom details of her eating disorder. I think once you get to these parts the book is written beautifully, it is engaging and is very easy to get addicted to. However, the ending left me yearning for a little bit more. Another thing that is totally off-putting about this book is that it is A MAJOR TRIGGER for people with eating disorders. When I read this I was in recovery and feel back into that hole deeper than I had before. The book is good but it left me wondering why someone who has been through what she has would write such a thing! The whole time it seems like she is trying to seem like the worst and most ill anorexic/bulimic in the world, it is almost like she is gloating about her illness! If you have an eating disorder you will leave wondering "Why didn't I do all those things she did, thats pretty smart" or "Why couldn't I be that strong and lose as much weight as she did?". It gives out secrets and tips that could easily kill you, glorifies it and makes it seem like its no big deal. I would HIGHLY recommend that no one with an eating disorder comes within 10 feet of this book. However, if the thought of an eating disorder confuses you, makes you laugh or just plain disgusts you than I do recommend this book. AS LONG AS YOU HAVE NO RISK OF DEVELOPING AN EATING DISORDER it is very descriptive and educational, bringing you into a raw world of pain and demons that so many feel everyday.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Angie crosby

    Although I can see why so many like this book, I found it to be dangerous. As an anorexic I found the book great because it had tips in it. This is dangerous though also can be good to read for people trying to live with an anorexic or people who don't have this disease. Definatly not a book for someone in the throes of an ED to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Savina M.

    4.5 stars. I scrolled through some of the reviews, and most of the two-three star reviews complained about this book being triggering, dangerous, etc. They said it contained "tips" and should not be read by people with an ED. First of all, people with an ED figure out the "tips" by themselves sooner or later. A simple google search, pro ED websites, all offer the same "tips". For non ED sufferers, these tips might seem new and absurd, but most people with an ED would have already known about 4.5 stars. I scrolled through some of the reviews, and most of the two-three star reviews complained about this book being triggering, dangerous, etc. They said it contained "tips" and should not be read by people with an ED. First of all, people with an ED figure out the "tips" by themselves sooner or later. A simple google search, pro ED websites, all offer the same "tips". For non ED sufferers, these tips might seem new and absurd, but most people with an ED would have already known about them, or have their own ways to keep their parents or loved ones from knowing about their disease. I'm not saying it's a good thing—I'm just saying this isn't a solid reason to censor this book or to warn people away from it. Recovering anorexics/bulimics, however, should stay far, far away from this book. Or any ED related book, anyway. The author doesn't fully recover from her ED. Not exactly sure why this upsets people—I thought it was a pretty accurate portrayal of an ED. It's not always white and black. Some people never truly recover. That's the horrible reality of having an ED. Wasted was well-written, slipping effortlessly between first and second person, making the story more vivid and alive. Though it irked some people, I thought it was done pretty well. In conclusion, definitely a book worth reading, and can increase your understanding of EDs.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Ok, I read this a long time ago, but it's still quite possibly the best book on eating disorders -- or even on adolescent mental illness -- that I've ever read. Hornbacher is intelligent, avoids cliches and above all, avoids making herself sound good when she can tell the truth instead. A bracing departure from the "girls can't help starving themselves to death when they see all those models in those glossy magazines" line of thinking about eating disorders -- a line of thinking that treats Ok, I read this a long time ago, but it's still quite possibly the best book on eating disorders -- or even on adolescent mental illness -- that I've ever read. Hornbacher is intelligent, avoids cliches and above all, avoids making herself sound good when she can tell the truth instead. A bracing departure from the "girls can't help starving themselves to death when they see all those models in those glossy magazines" line of thinking about eating disorders -- a line of thinking that treats those suffering from eating disorders as helpless and mindlessly programmable, rather than as complicated human beings.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Emotionally honest. Made me feel things I didn't really want to feel. She says the same thing as Neil does at the end of The Game. You just have to live with who you were and are. Quotes: "the realizations of how we have failed to become ourselves, how afraid we were and are, and how we must start over from scratch, no matter how great that fear" "All of us carry around countless bags of dusty old knickknacks dated from childhood: collected resentments, long lists of wounds of greater or lesser Emotionally honest. Made me feel things I didn't really want to feel. She says the same thing as Neil does at the end of The Game. You just have to live with who you were and are. Quotes: "the realizations of how we have failed to become ourselves, how afraid we were and are, and how we must start over from scratch, no matter how great that fear" "All of us carry around countless bags of dusty old knickknacks dated from childhood: collected resentments, long lists of wounds of greater or lesser significance, glorified memories, absolute certainties that later turn our to be wrong. Humans are emotional pack rats. These bags define us." "I as many young women do, honest-to-goodness believed that once I Just Lost a Few Pounds, somehow I would suddenly be a New You, I would have Ken-doll men chasing my thin legs down with bouquets of flowers on the street, I would become rich and famous and glamorous and lose my freckles and become blond and five foot ten." "When you believe that you are not worthwhile in and of yourself, in the back of your mind you also begin to believe that life is not worthwhile in and of itself." "And as I would do for years to come, I got angry at the people who loved me the most and therefore pulled no punches. I wanted to be coddled. I wanted someone to say, Oh, poor baby, everything will be okay we'll make it better. I did not want someone to say, This is bullshit. No on wants to hear the truth about themselves. Lora was telling the truth, and I moved out." "I think this assumption of powerlessness is the most dangerous thing an anoretic can hear. It grants license, exoneration. I likes siting back in my chair, chain-smoking, sighing with relief and thinking: This is beyond my control. The mind lifts its hands from the wheel and says: I hand this over to a higher power. God, don't let me crash." "Life seemed rather daunting. It seems so to me even now. Life seemed like too long a time to have to stick around, a huge span of years through which one would be required to tap-dance and smile and be Great! and be Happy! and be Amazing! and Precocious! I was tired of life by the time I was sixteen. I was tired of being too much ,too intense, too manic. I was tired of people, and I was incredibly tired of myself. I wanted to do whatever Amazing Thing I was expected to do - it might be pointed out that these were my expectations, mine alone - and be done with it. Go to sleep." "A family trying very hard to understand, a girl trying very hard to die. The charts make me shake my head in disbelief that the family could be so obtuse, that the girl could be so insensitive, so wrapped up in her own little world, that she could be so blind to the ramifications of her own behavior." "I turn the pages, watch the weight rise and fall, listen through a din of years to the pleading, wheedling, delusional, lying voice of this girl. Because, in these charts, even I can see that the girl is lying. And that she will fall again. And again." "The hospital had sparked in me an infantile desire to dodge the rules, to gleefully watch the Very Caring faces tighten and whiten with irritation at their own impotence, at your uncanny ability to trip them, force their hand, fuck them up. You do not notice that this is, pure and simple, a bunch of crap, and you are still, as ever, fucking yourself up, not them. You let yourself believe that you are really at battle with Them, because it's easier. You have escaped Them, a fugitive running, and you are rather pleased with the discovery that you are a very good liar." "Oh there is no use in loving the dying. I have tried. I have tried but you can't, you just can't guard the dead. You are the watchman and you can't keep the gate shut." "I know you don;'t usually give hugs but I was wondering maybe if I could give you a hug, you don't have to hug back or anything, but I thought maybe since you've been here a while and you haven't had any hugs at all in like weeks maybe you need a hug." "Why am I pouring this down the sink? What does this prove?" "It does not hit you until later. The fact that you were essentially dead does not register until you begin to come alive. Frostbite does not hurt until it starts to thaw. First it is numb. Then the shock of pain rips through the body. And then, every winter after, it aches." "You have to believe, or at least pretend you believe until you really believe it, that you are strong enough to take life face on." "Always, there is an odd distance between you and the people you love and the people you meet, a barrier, thing as the glass of a mirror. You never come all the way out of the mirror; you stand, for the rest of your life, with one foot in this world and one in another, where everything is upside down and backward and sad."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shreya Vikram

    What is it about this book that's so terribly hard to read? Marya's story has never been told so honestly, so unashamedly, never shying away from the details, never trying to blame or be obtuse or narrow-minded, never pretending this is anything more than the raw, unvarnished truth. What really got me was the sheer amount of work she's put into this book. I have never seen so much research being put into a memoir, a genre that is infamous for being extemporaneous and vain. Wasted is anything What is it about this book that's so terribly hard to read? Marya's story has never been told so honestly, so unashamedly, never shying away from the details, never trying to blame or be obtuse or narrow-minded, never pretending this is anything more than the raw, unvarnished truth. What really got me was the sheer amount of work she's put into this book. I have never seen so much research being put into a memoir, a genre that is infamous for being extemporaneous and vain. Wasted is anything but. Marya may not have all the answers, but unlike so many other memoirists, she does not back away from science with her palms up in surrender, saying, how does it matter, there's no use anyway, it's already happened, so who cares? She is not resigned or compliant. She does not whine or complain. Instead, she puts so much work into this story, so much understanding and patience and love and care, it brings life to an otherwise frigid plot. Her consideration for herself makes everything so much more bearable. Her prose, of course, is nothing short of stunning. The narrative shifts seamlessly between tenses, POVs, styles, story, chronology. It blurs all the lines of traditional novel-writing and leaves the reader breathless, in the true sense of the word: so horrified, so shocked, you can't help but slam the book shut as if the words will leave you if you don't look at them. That's a lie. The details never leave you. The details will never leave me. Marya writes as though there is no difference between the plot and the metaphor, and it makes all the difference. Prose in novels can easily get old, but there is no distinct 'prose' here, no distinct 'story'. Everything is just one huge terrifying blur designed to take your breath away. And it does. My God, it does. There is so much philosophy in this book- not just on eating disorders, but on our lives as a whole- so many ideas I have to mull on. I absolutely loved her distinction between anorexia and bulimia, and how that relates to the culture we live in. I think I'll be doing a reread pretty soon so I can digest it a little more coherently. Is it strange that this book reminded me so much of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho? In both, you read horror as you've never known before. In both, you find yourself questioning just how human can get away with such terrible things, how you can possibly ignore a long-drawn-out suicide of the soul when it's happening right beside you. Patrick says he slit a child's throat in full sunlight in a zoo, Marya says her skin turned grey, only her knuckles touched in her hands, she claims she grew fur! And no one appears to notice in the least. I like to think that I would have noticed, I would have done something if I'd known her. But inside, I don't think I would have. Or I don't think I would have pressed if she said she wanted alone. And there is nothing sadder than this. And in both books, there is such an immense despair underneath the horror, you don't even want to get through it, such a horrifying pain, and you can look into a mirror and see an echo of this pain in yourself, you can relate. You feel empathy. Not sympathy. Empathy. You feel empathy for psychopaths and anorectics. And it is terrifying. I cannot help but hate Marya for leaving us with no End, no happily ever after. I want her to tell me she's better now, maybe not good, but better. I want her to tell me that she's not obsessed with thinness anymore, that the body-positive movement has done her good. I want her to give me more hope. She doesn't. I understand it, and I respect that- not many writers would have been brave enough to tell the truth till the very end- and I respect her courage in that. And it reminds me of something she said at the very start, that no one was going to save you but yourself, that no one can give me this hope I'm craving but myself. . . . Blog | Letterboxd

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This was a really beautiful and heartbreaking memoir of a troubled life. It's ostensibly about an eating disorder, but it seemed to me that it's about a long suicide. She's an excellent writer and you feel like you are part of the story--not necessarily rooting for her, but you begin to understand what it might feel like to slowly deprive yourself of sustenance and let yourself die. I hope she's better now

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    This book was interesting and gives readers a glimpse into a disease (disorder?) that nearly killed Marya until she got control of her life again. Genuine and realistic, Wasted is really worth reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Marya Hornbacher's Wasted, a memoir of the author's struggles with bulimia and anorexia, was March's choice for the Mad Woman's Book Club which I run on Goodreads. I was quite interested to see firsthand what coping with an eating disorder is like, particularly over such a prolonged period, having never read a book which deals with the issue. Hornbacher begins with some startling admissions: 'I became bulimic at the age of nine, anorexic at the age of fifteen'. Her introduction is insightful; she Marya Hornbacher's Wasted, a memoir of the author's struggles with bulimia and anorexia, was March's choice for the Mad Woman's Book Club which I run on Goodreads. I was quite interested to see firsthand what coping with an eating disorder is like, particularly over such a prolonged period, having never read a book which deals with the issue. Hornbacher begins with some startling admissions: 'I became bulimic at the age of nine, anorexic at the age of fifteen'. Her introduction is insightful; she states that she chose to write the book because, fundamentally, she disagreed with the majority of what had been written about eating disorders prior to 1998. Hornbacher writes: 'It is, at the most basic level, a bundle of deadly contradictions: a desire for power that strips you of all power. A gesture of strength that divests you of all strength... It is a grotesque mockery of cultural standards of beauty that winds up mocking no one more than you. It is a protest against cultural stereotypes of women that in the end makes you seem the weakest, the most needy and neurotic of all women. It is the thing you believe is keeping you safe, alive, contained - and in the end, of course, you find it's doing quite the opposite.' She makes clear throughout that Wasted tells of a singular experience, but does hint at its terrifying commonality: 'So I get to be the stereotype: female, white, young, middle-class. I can't tell the story for all of us.' Hornbacher is incredibly frank, and much of her writing about eating disorders is highly psychological. She writes: 'Body and mind fall apart from each other, and it is in this fissure that an eating disorder may flourish, in the silence that surrounds this confusion that an eating disorder may fester and think.' This, however, is not a memoir written as a coping mechanism from a position retrospect; Hornbacher makes this as clear, as she also does with the way in which she hopes the publication of the book will help others in a similar position to the one she was in. Hornbacher discusses the rigidity of the classification of eating disorders; simply because her father was not 'absent and emotionally inaccessible' and her mother 'overbearing, invasive, [and] needy', she was not deemed to come from the right family type to develop bulimia and, later, anorexia. Whilst she says that her home life was relatively ordinary for the most part, as she grows, she realises that, as an only child, she is used as a focus for her parents' own relationship issues: 'The child becomes a pawn, a bartering piece, as each parent competes to be the best, most nurturing parent, as determined by whom the child loves more. It was my job to act like I loved them both best - when the other one wasn't around.' She does detail her mother's own neuroses with eating, determined as she was to stay thin, and never eating more than half of the food on her plate. One of the most remarkable things about Wasted is that Hornbacher was only twenty-three when it was written; it is one of the most eloquent memoirs which I have ever read. She is incredibly humble too, despite her own experiences: 'I do not have all the answers. In fact, I have precious few. I will pose more questions in this book than I can respond to. I can offer little more than my perspective, my experience of having an eating disorder.' Wasted is a compelling memoir, and a fierce honesty has been stamped onto every single page. When describing herself as she falls into substance abuse, she says: 'I was vivacious, rebellious, obnoxious, often sick, sometimes cruel, and sometimes falling apart on the locker room floor, usually seething at something, running away from my house in the night.' This no-holds-barred approach works wonderfully within Hornbacher's book; we are simultaneously frightened and repulsed by her graphic descriptions of purging and her body, and want to read on. There is a fantastic balance between the personal and psychological. Wasted is intense and important, and a real eye-opener for those who have never experienced the disease.

  20. 4 out of 5

    cat

    just a little reminder: you're beautiful. you're worth it. you're more than your body, your weight, your thoughts. you're allowed to eat. you deserve to eat. [TRIGGER WARNING FUCKING TRIGGER WARNING] as someone who is currently struggling to kick my eating disorder ass, i can say that this book triggered me a lot. made me realize how fucked up i am. but it also made me feel less alone and misunderstood. marya did not enjoy writing this book. i did not enjoy reading it. because it hurts. writing and just a little reminder: you're beautiful. you're worth it. you're more than your body, your weight, your thoughts. you're allowed to eat. you deserve to eat. [TRIGGER WARNING FUCKING TRIGGER WARNING] as someone who is currently struggling to kick my eating disorder ass, i can say that this book triggered me a lot. made me realize how fucked up i am. but it also made me feel less alone and misunderstood. marya did not enjoy writing this book. i did not enjoy reading it. because it hurts. writing and reading about it. you're dying but you're still there. you want to get better but, at the same time, you want to get worse. you want to eat and smile and just live your fucking life but, at the same time, you just want to starve till your heart stops or to throw up till blood is all you can see. maybe then you will feel clean. maybe then you feel better. the truth is: you won't. your eating disorder is lying to you. your eating disorder is KILLING you. it's not about the weight, the physical appearance , even the food, itself. it's not about not knowing how to deal with the girls smiling on the covers of magazines. it's about not knowing how to deal with life, itself. with your existence. nothing will ever be enough to your eating disorder. only your death. you deserve help. you deserve feeling alive. you deserve to pet your animals and go for a walk and read good books and make connections and friendships and, oh my God, you deserve more than being stuck in this hell! this is not easy, i know. you reach a point where you feel you have absolutely nothing to lose. you just don't care. but i do. if you ever need anything, please, please, please, contact me. you're not alone.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was such a difficult and painful book to read that it took me well over a month to finish it! Hornbacher in no way tried to sugarcoat her illness or attempt to make the reader feel sorry for her. And I have to say I both appreciated and admired her honest recount of her actions. She goes so far as to acknowledge that she still doesn't have a full grasp of understanding her disorder nor does she leave you with a false sense of well-being in the end. She ends her memoir telling you she was This was such a difficult and painful book to read that it took me well over a month to finish it! Hornbacher in no way tried to sugarcoat her illness or attempt to make the reader feel sorry for her. And I have to say I both appreciated and admired her honest recount of her actions. She goes so far as to acknowledge that she still doesn't have a full grasp of understanding her disorder nor does she leave you with a false sense of well-being in the end. She ends her memoir telling you she was not magically "cured" and that she will probably have to deal with her disorder's struggles for the rest of her life, however long or short that might be, she has to take it one day at a time. And that I am afraid is probably more real to life than most of the feel-good endings we're all used to reading where the "hero" conquers all. Sidenote: Was going to give this book 3.5 stars, however, this book definitely gets inside your head. One minute all her scary and sad descriptions of starvation would make me hungry, and then the next minute I'd feel completely guilty for wanting to indulge in a cookie. Any book that changes my outlook on the world or the things around me automatically gets an extra half a star! 4 stars.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bookwyrm

    This book will haunt you, I promise you. I still think about it often, though I read it for the first time I think about 4 years ago. The author chronicles her struggle with anorexia and bulimia (which she calls a combined disorder of "bulimarexia") but her language is captivating. It is also apparent that Marya has done her research; as she narrates her own experience she also includes passages from research on anorexia and bulimia to help show how she came to be afflicted and where she fits This book will haunt you, I promise you. I still think about it often, though I read it for the first time I think about 4 years ago. The author chronicles her struggle with anorexia and bulimia (which she calls a combined disorder of "bulimarexia") but her language is captivating. It is also apparent that Marya has done her research; as she narrates her own experience she also includes passages from research on anorexia and bulimia to help show how she came to be afflicted and where she fits into the scheme of the disorder. As you read the book you will be by turns morbidly fascinated and repulsed. I often think about her description of herself when she estimates that she weighed somewhere int he 40-50 pound range, right before she admitted: she eats one fat-free muffin at a diner with her parents, and then cries and apologizes sincerely for eating so much. Later in the doctor's office, he tells her she needs to be admitted immediately. She declines at first, saying she has to go meet some friends. He tells her she could have a heart attack walking out of the clinic, and she examines the statement objectively, and almost without emotion, and finally accedes to being admitted. Like I said, it will haunt you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Twxitbetwixt

    Okay... what to say about THIS... LOL I was expected a story about this woman's struggle with ED. And yeah, it kind of was, but then it kind of wasn't. Only a very small portion of the book is her actually owning up to her own personal issues & experiences. There is not very much of HER story (i.e. "I did this, I went here, I said that... etc) Not very much "I" at all. Instead we have a book full of her being totally dissociated from the entire ED. Instead of "I" it's all "You".... "You will do Okay... what to say about THIS... LOL I was expected a story about this woman's struggle with ED. And yeah, it kind of was, but then it kind of wasn't. Only a very small portion of the book is her actually owning up to her own personal issues & experiences. There is not very much of HER story (i.e. "I did this, I went here, I said that... etc) Not very much "I" at all. Instead we have a book full of her being totally dissociated from the entire ED. Instead of "I" it's all "You".... "You will do this, you will say that, you will go here..." I don't know who this "You" person is, it's definitely not ME, the reader. And since I was buying a book advertised as a memoir, I'm expecting a lot of "I" descriptions & stories. Not a bunch of "you, you. you" bull shit. Plus she has a very arrogant & condescending tone throughout the book. Kind of annoying too. I couldn't warm up to her story at all. Instead it's mostly her bragging about ED & all it's glories. She's so proud of herself & all victims of ED apparently. Like its some great accomplishment to nearly kill yourself through starvation. Yeah - congratulations Marya!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gustine

    This book is unquestionably very well-written and fascinating, yet I struggled with how many stars to give it. The author is, quite simply, a rather unlikable person. I hate looking at her photo on the cover, I’m glad I don’t know her, and I don’t really wish her well. This was troubling to me because it seems one should like (or at least have empathy for) the character one is reading about, particularly if the book is a memoir. Should feeling empathy for the author of a memoir be a prerequisite This book is unquestionably very well-written and fascinating, yet I struggled with how many stars to give it. The author is, quite simply, a rather unlikable person. I hate looking at her photo on the cover, I’m glad I don’t know her, and I don’t really wish her well. This was troubling to me because it seems one should like (or at least have empathy for) the character one is reading about, particularly if the book is a memoir. Should feeling empathy for the author of a memoir be a prerequisite for a 4- or 5-star rating? The writing is indisputably excellent. Her childhood remembrances embody the perfect child’s voice, she shows wonderful self-awareness (except for two significant lapses toward the end) and her details and general observances are authentic and even humorous despite the subject matter.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a change this reading experience of Wasted was when compared to my previously read book - Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love! The author of Wasted, Marya Hornbacher, recalls the early and continual knotting and tangling up of her early childhood, her parents, her family and later, her prep school and college dysfunctional experience and how these all play a part in her developing and nurturing an eating disorder. She is a strong writer but in a very different way as compared unfortunately What a change this reading experience of Wasted was when compared to my previously read book - Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love! The author of Wasted, Marya Hornbacher, recalls the early and continual knotting and tangling up of her early childhood, her parents, her family and later, her prep school and college dysfunctional experience and how these all play a part in her developing and nurturing an eating disorder. She is a strong writer but in a very different way as compared unfortunately to Elizabeth Gilbert. Marya is almost suffocating at times. Still very interesting, though, and my underlining habit developed during reading Eat, Pray, Love was put to good use in Wasted. Marya's a ruthlessly honest writer of blistering truths not easily forgotten. Bouncing around in America's collective conscience are several probably well-intended but extremely simplistic and misguided theories and "solutions" to this mystifying disease. Person after person, family included, thoughtfully encounters Marya and offers her the ridiculously pithy and ludicrously obvious advice that she should just eat something. (Wow - problem completely solved - thanks!) Another theory, endorsed by Oprah among others, that sounds good but is so far off the mark is that anorexia/eating disorders are about control and not about the food. This second theory sounds like it would be more substantive than the just-eat-something camp of unsolicited advice, but ultimately is way too simplistic to cover all of it. She doesn't have a fully formed, comprehensive understanding of exactly why she was affected by this and when so many other people go their whole lives unscathed. Some of her internal thoughts, when combined, shed incredible amounts of light on her as an anorexic and likely most anorexics in general. This book had the greatest number of cumulative truths in it than any other book I've read, however bitter they were. About her eating disorder, Marya observes that the worries about your weight do not decrease no matter how much weight you lose. Rather, they grow. Another thought-provoking gem she shares is that it is a shortcut to something many women without an eating disorder have gotten: respect and power. It is a visual temper tantrum. Her observations about herself really seem to best address the truth behind her eating disorder. She wrote, "I couldn't imagine what the hell I was going to do with myself once I attained "success," but I couldn't give up the panicky need to achieve it either." In an explanation about the group of people affected by an eating disorder, she noted, "Bear in mind, we tend to be both competitive and intelligent. We are incredibly perfectionistic. We also tend to quit without warning. We tire of having to seem impressive." She somehow summed everything up best when she succinctly stated that, "There is a deadline on incredibility and the clock is ticking." That spoke volumes towards the understanding of the existence of this disorder to me when the affected person channels her or his neuroses towards what they define as a "sucessful" disorder. Marya begins her descent into the dark world of an eating disorder at the alarmingly early age of 5 and continues her destructive behaviors well into adulthood. Despite frequent hospitalizations and interventions, she surprises you as her disease progresses still even when you think she's finally at her worst. She was so severely affected that several times in the book - especially when her weight dropped into the double digits and then kept on dropping - I was sure she was going to die from complications related to her disease, but I'm happy to report that she's better now, or as good as she can get after a lifelong battle with her own body. At one point, a doctor grimly reports that she has just a month to live if things continue without change. Finally she makes the mind shift and her life follows suit. As an author, Marya's best strengths are her extremely masterful use of foreshadowing and her unusual reporting of (what I think was) the actual, tersely worded medical records of each hospitalization throughout the book. With each subsequent hospitalization, her charts continue to accumulate more telling details about her mental and physical health as seen by the health care and mental health professionals. One detail that bugged me a lot during this book was her stubborn insistence to address herself as an anoretic instead of an anorexic. I don't know what the difference is, but it was darn annoying since it came up frequently in a book like this. She does, early on, thankfully make the distinction between someone who's dieting to get just a few pounds off and someone who suffers from a true eating disorder. She weaves her personal life into the story in a slightly muddled way. I remember reading that she was married then she mentioned being married to someone else without an explanation (or I missed it somehow if it was there.) This book is clearly more about her deep, intimate, abiding relationship with her eating disorder. Any other relationships rank well below - almost off the chart - to her primary relationship with her disorder. This was a grim read, for sure, but one that I'm ultimately glad that I stuck out until the end. It wasn't rewarding in a feel-good way that some books are, but I was so happy to see that she didn't die, for one thing, and achieved a measure of personal and even more professional success.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    WASTED is one of those books that will have you shaking your head and mumbling to yourself, "oh my god, that is insane." As detailed in this book, eating disorders are indeed a type of mental illness. People with anorexia or bulimia struggle so hard to get better because their brains are preventing them from thinking in a normal fashion. Just as you cannot tell a person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to "just get over it," the same with eating disorders. The ending of this book was WASTED is one of those books that will have you shaking your head and mumbling to yourself, "oh my god, that is insane." As detailed in this book, eating disorders are indeed a type of mental illness. People with anorexia or bulimia struggle so hard to get better because their brains are preventing them from thinking in a normal fashion. Just as you cannot tell a person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder to "just get over it," the same with eating disorders. The ending of this book was rather up in the air. We get the picture that the author was still struggling a great deal. With a sense of foreboding, I Googled the author's name, fearing that she has since died. Frankly, I still don't understand how an adult human can get down to 50 pounds and live to tell the tale. However, I am happy to report that she is very much alive and now at a healthy weight and has written several other books.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Given Wasted’s veritable glut of intimate details, Marya Hornbacher’s tone was curiously detached and impersonal for me, which meant I had a bit of a difficult time really getting into this one. Hornbacher seems at least a little cognizant of this: in one footnote, she insinuates that she suffers from alexithymia, and is thus unable to verbalize her emotional state, despite being otherwise ‘exceptionally verbal’. Humorously, Hornbacher neglects to address why, if this is so, she thought that Given Wasted’s veritable glut of intimate details, Marya Hornbacher’s tone was curiously detached and impersonal for me, which meant I had a bit of a difficult time really getting into this one. Hornbacher seems at least a little cognizant of this: in one footnote, she insinuates that she suffers from alexithymia, and is thus unable to verbalize her emotional state, despite being otherwise ‘exceptionally verbal’. Humorously, Hornbacher neglects to address why, if this is so, she thought that writing a memoir was a good idea; presumably audiences are looking for some insight into, um, her emotional state. I didn’t feel upon completion that I had any concrete understanding as to who Hornbacher actually was. Rather, the text read to me more like a haphazard collection of hazy memories interspersed with imprecise stabs at psychoanalysis. In dozens of largely uncited asides, Hornbacher begins these by writing, “The shrinks say/the shrinks scrawl these words/the shrinks tell us later/the shrinks call it/the shrinks seem absolutely convinced/the shrinks note/quoth the shrinks…” etcetera etcetera, ad nauseum. I’m not exaggerating here; I went through the text to copy all of those verbatim. The pacing was off, too: weeks, months, years skip along with very little to denote their passage. The book ends abruptly, terminating when Hornbacher was at her sickest. The constant back-and-forth between first- and second-person, often mid-paragraph, was also mildly infuriating. I certainly think it’s possible for some authors to utilize these techniques to great effect, but their usage seems arbitrary here. Hornbacher was 24 when this book, which was nominated for a Pulitzer, was published; naturally, then, it was highly lauded upon release. Although I am younger than she was at the time (and I don’t presume for a second I could write nearly as well), I can’t help but feel perhaps the text would have benefited from some time between the occurrence of the events detailed and the book’s publication. Then again, I take it from her next memoir, Madness, that Hornbacher didn’t actually find any modicum of peace for quite some time, so perhaps not. I don’t feel particularly inclined to rush out and read that one after having read this (and in fact, I very well may give up my copy, as I have no real desire to read at length about any more of Hornbacher’s self-destructive behaviour), so I’m giving this one two and a half stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kate O'Hanlon

    I gave this book five stars because it's a fantastic book. Beautifully written, honest and rich with insight. When I read Wasted I was 16/17 and obsessed with my weight. I knew the book had critics who said that it shouldn't be read by people with eating disorders because it was filled with tips and because Hornbacher was equivocal when it came to getting better. I scoffed at them. I'm older now and if not better, then at least different, and I do have a more troubled view of the book. Is this a I gave this book five stars because it's a fantastic book. Beautifully written, honest and rich with insight. When I read Wasted I was 16/17 and obsessed with my weight. I knew the book had critics who said that it shouldn't be read by people with eating disorders because it was filled with tips and because Hornbacher was equivocal when it came to getting better. I scoffed at them. I'm older now and if not better, then at least different, and I do have a more troubled view of the book. Is this a good book, yes, absolutely. Dangerous, I can't say. I don't think it will turn anyone anorexic or bulimic. Will it exacerbate behaviour? Well, the modern world is full of artifacts that will exacerbate eating disorders. You can argue til the cows come home about whether size 0 can cause an ed but it's defiantly and impediment to recovery. Wasted's real potential threat is that it teaches you how to hide the problem. I don't know what to say on that. I'm not in favour of censorship and I never will be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Brown

    Beautifully written and extremely intense, and well worth reading even if you have no interest whatsoever in the subject matter. I didn't when I picked it up, but my attention was caught by the arresting cover photograph, and the first chapter was so gripping that I had to either buy it or stand in the bookshop reading it for the next few hours. One of my very favorite memoirs, with an excellent balance of personal narrative with just enough background and research to keep it from solipsism. The Beautifully written and extremely intense, and well worth reading even if you have no interest whatsoever in the subject matter. I didn't when I picked it up, but my attention was caught by the arresting cover photograph, and the first chapter was so gripping that I had to either buy it or stand in the bookshop reading it for the next few hours. One of my very favorite memoirs, with an excellent balance of personal narrative with just enough background and research to keep it from solipsism. The prose is fantastic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    Although I don't have an eating disorder, I could identify with some of the things Marya says here. She's very honest and doesn't try to sugar-coat anorexia or bulimia. In truth, you never fully recover from these conditions, and you can see her struggle with her past and her future in every page. I recommend this book to people wanting to understand eating disorders, to relatives of someone with anorexia, and to pepple who want a good, real read. This gets very Painful to read at times.

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