What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again.She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size-zero obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?
This eloquent debut novel rings with authenticity as it follows Elizabeth’s journey to taking an active role in her recovery, hoping to get back all that she lost.
EXCLUSIVE DELETED SCENE
We had a new therapist for music therapy on Thursday. Her name was Sunny and she wore a long, drapey skirt made from a blue tapestry and smelled like incense. She didn’t look much older than me and wore at least ten silver bracelets on her right arm that clinked together whenever she moved.
We sat on the carpeted floor as classical music played. I think it was supposed to calm us.
“Okay, guys. Close your eyes and feel the music,” Sunny said, her eyes wide. “What does it bring up? What do you see? What do you remember? Write down anything that comes to you.”
I looked over at Willa. She was drawing big huge scribbles. She grinned at me and scrawled “Suck suck suck suck suck this sucks” in big angry letters. She giggled. I drew flowers. Perfectly symmetrical flowers. If one wasn’t perfect, I scribbled it out.
Sunny had turned and was scrolling through iTunes, her back to us. Right when I thought Willa was going to rip a hole in her paper, Madonna blasted through the speakers hanging from all four corners of the room. I jumped.
The music was old, some song from the eighties or nineties where Madonna kept singing “celebrate! It will be all right!” It was the sort of song Mom would squeal over and sing along to. The girls and I just sat there confused. Sunny couldn’t want us to dance, could she?
Sunny spun around, skirt twirling, and saw us sitting there like statues. “Well, move, guys!”
Was this a trap? A way to get us all to drink an Ensure? No one budged. We weren’t supposed to “move.” Anything beyond necessary walking was strictly prohibited.
“Come on guys! Listen to the beat! Move with the music!” She swayed in the front of the room, and every time she waved her arms we could smell patchouli.
I stared at the floor, willing someone else to go first. I did not want to have to drink an Ensure. That’s what happened if they caught you running or exercising around here.
Still, my toes bumped to the beat. Madonna was sort of contagious.
Celebra-ate! It will be all right!
Finally, Jean, who everyone called a “lifer” because she’d already been at the hospital for nine months, stood up and started to wiggle her butt, just a little. Willa jumped up next, and I followed. Soon all eight of us were on our feet, laughing, moving, wiggling, jumping, dancing like—what is that cheesy quote that is always showing up on cards and magnets? —oh yeah, like nobody was watching. Ally, a girl from Manhattan whose parents visited every week, started to moonwalk. We hooted and cheered. I laughed and felt something inside me crack open. For the first time in a long time, I felt normal, like I could be in my basement dancing with my friends Katrina, Priya, and Shay, like the last few months had never happened.
And then, without warning, the music disappeared, like a needle ripped from a record. We froze. A disapproving Nurse Jill stood next to Sunny, who looked ashamed, like a kid caught playing in her mother’s closet. We stood there, panting, Ally’s face red from her crazy moves.
“Lunch time,” Nurse Jill said. The frown lines in her already wrinkled cheeks deepened.
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Alexandra Ballard has worked as a magazine editor, middle-school English teacher, freelance writer, and cake maker. She holds master’s from both Columbia (journalism) and Fordham (education) and spent ten years in the classroom, beginning in the Bronx and ending up in the hills of California. Today she writes full time and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs. What I Lost is Alexandra’s first novel.
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6/6/2017- YA Book Madness- Guest Post
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