By Diana Clarke
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 3.89 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Mental Health
Format Read: Audiobook
Goodreads summary: A dark, edgy, voice-driven literary debut novel about twin sisters that explores body image and queerness as well as toxic diet culture and the power of sisterhood, love, and lifelong friendships, written by a talented protégé of Roxane Gay.
Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.
Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.
But Lily is struggling, too. A kindergarten teacher, she dates abusive men, including a student’s married father, in search of the close yet complicated companionship she lost when she became separated from Rose.
When Lily joins a cult diet group led by a social media faux feminist, whose eating plan consists of consuming questionable non-caloric foods, Rose senses that Lily needs her help. With her sister’s life in jeopardy, Rose must find a way to rescue her—and perhaps, save herself.
Illuminating some of the most fraught and common issues confronting women, Thin Girls is a powerful, emotionally resonant story, beautifully told, that will keep you turning the pages to the gratifying, hopeful end.
Content warnings for Thin Girls (highlight line below to read):
Anorexia, disordered eating, bulimia, orthorexia, dying, mentally + physically abusive relationships
“Thin Girls” is a story of a girl named Rose who, at the start of the novel, is checked into a rehab facility for anorexics. Rose has had anorexia for nearly all of her life, and now is finally getting help, although she doesn’t actually seem to want it. The book alternates between present day Rose, and young Rose, starting from the beginning of her eating disorder at the age of 13. Rose is a twin, and a lot of the story is about the relationship between her and her sister, Lilly.
The way this book was written was so intoxicatingly beautiful that it was almost painful at times. You were so fully swept up into Rose’s own mind, which at turns glorified and was brutally honest about her anorexia. She compared herself and the other thin girls to animals that she’d read books about in a way that so thoroughly dehumanized her and yet also illuminated her mindset. I have never read a book that managed to capture both sides of a mental health disorder so thoroughly.
The other characters in the story were all described through Rose’s eyes, so we only saw them the way she saw them. This was especially true with Jemima (her childhood best friend) and her sister. Rose’s perspective of them was so colored by the way she wanted to see them, but there was a self awareness in that too. This only further served to wrap us up in Rose’s world and force us to see the world she did.
In each timeline, Lilly is having her own battle with mental health, albeit in a different way. She falls into a series of abusive relationships, each one escalating until the present day, where it becomes clear that she is now also falling prey to an eating disorder, something that has always been “just rose’s” now becoming a trait that the twins share.
Although I cannot say how “accurate” of a portrayal of anorexia this book was, I can say that it felt like a very real and lived in experience. The way Clarke forced us inside of Rose’s mind was very powerful and made this a difficult book to read despite the beauty of the prose. Know what you’re getting into before beginning, because it could most definitely be triggering for people, and despite the moments of optimism, I would not consider this an happy book whatsoever.
I listened to the audiobook and thought that it was very well orated and would recommend the listening experience.