on November 11, 2008
When I bought this book I was so looking forward to reading about an eating disorder from the point of view of a male sufferer. "Nothing" will bring to readers' attention that guys can have bulimia, but that their disease often remains undiagnosed because of their gender. They're too embarrassed to seek help, and the reason behind their changing behavior and health wouldn't even occur to most people. I, too, was unable to put down this book because the boy's accelerating academic pressure was kind of hypnotizing. He took on so much! But the look into Parker and Danielle's darkest thoughts wasn't realistic enough for me. I don't mean that I was looking for profanity or gross purging imagery or anything like that, just a whole lot more resentment on Danielle's part and more disgust and shame coming from Parker. This book reminded me of "Cut" by Patricia McCormick, in that niether author seemed to have any personal experience with self-desctructive diseases or the ability to even sound convincing about them. They managed to produce simple, "compassionate" novels that were sanitary enough for any teen reader and his or her mom. Plenty of young-adult books have made a real impact on me, and I'll wait for a better one about the grim reality of eating disorders in males.
on November 29, 2012
The book is set up with the different main characters giving a "diary" or personal point of view account of what is happening. Each account is very short being a page to a few pages long and counting for a day of time. There are headings that have "48 days before" and I kept reading because I wanted to know what the "before what" was.
The topics of male breast cancer and male bulimia are covered. I don't have any experience with either, but I thought that the reactions in the book seemed realistic. I wish there were more story once the main character was formally diagnosed and went through treatment, but the story basically ended there.
Overall I thought the characters were likable and I would recommend this book to anyone, male or female. It was a quick read, I finished it in an afternoon.
on July 28, 2008
On the outside, Parker seems to have everything going for him: he's wealthy, he's attractive, he's a track star, he's a journalist, he's active in his community, and he's a good student. However, Parker doesn't like everything that he's doing, and he doesn't like how he looks on the outside. He keeps his emotions locked up inside, where no one can see them. His father wants him to become "a nice Jewish doctor," but that's not Parker's dream. Although his parents have made him see a college consultant regularly since he was a freshman, he's still not sure what he wants to do after high school. When the pressure (from his overbearing father, from his coaches, from his friends, from himself) gets to be too much, he turns to food. After going on shopping sprees at the grocery store, he eats until he's uncomfortably full, then throws up.
Binging and purging takes a toll on both his body and his mind. He feels tired all of the time. He loses weight. He loses muscle. He loses strength. He stops hanging out with his friends. He argues with the girl he likes.
Danielle wishes she got a fraction of the attention Parker gets from their family and classmates. At first, she does not realize that that very attention has pushed Parker to hurt himself. Then, though Parker tries his best to hide what he's doing, Danielle begins to suspect something is wrong. She wonders if she should speak up, then wonders who will listen to her. As other matters at home complicate things, Danielle's narrative offers additional insight into Parker's character as well as their family life.
Nothing by Robin Friedman is written in first-person narrative, alternating between Parker's point of view and Danielle's point of view. While Parker shares his thoughts in straightforward prose, his younger sister Danielle uses verse. Throughout Nothing, Friedman treats the subject matter gently and compassionately. This novel is well-researched and will appeal to both genders, thanks largely to the dual narrative.
I say it time and time again: Sometimes, it's easier to read about something than talk about it. Hopefully, after reading this book, teenagers who worry they or someone they know might have an eating disorder will turn to someone for help.
on December 26, 2011
At times, I found this book to be very sad, but only in the most realistic and honest kind of way. I couldn't put it down - it was a one-sitting read for me. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about guys with eating disorders (this seems to be the only book easily available that deals with this under-appreciated issue), loves a book that makes you feel differently after reading it, or just to anyone who loves a good story.
This book follows Parker and his little sister Danielle, as the chapters alternate to tell the story of their family and Parker's sickness (bulimia). Danielle feels ignored being younger sister to "perfect" Parker, who is involved in nearly every possible school activity and extra-curricular activity and balances popularity. His parents seem absent and insensitive, and the only flaw with this book was I found I didn't really sympathize with the parents by the end of the story, and that was the author's intent - but maybe that wasn't the point. I sure loved all the other characters, though. The author writes with such clarity and hope that at the end, you will probably find yourself wanting to read it again.
on January 6, 2013
One of my students chose this book for an independent assignment. I like how the author highlights the need for awareness about males with bulimia and breast cancer. Like many teens, the main character Parker doesn't communicate with his parents about his inner turmoils: trying to please his parents, maintain 4.0, get into top school, etc. As the pressure mounts, he becomes bulimic. His sister feels like she's living in his shadow. This story is an easy, enjoyable read.
on August 12, 2008
It is a rare occurrence for me to read a book all the way through in one sitting, yet that is exactly what happened with NOTHING. I could not put it down.
It is the story of a high school senior struggling with bulimia. What makes this story unique is that the bulimic student is a boy. As he struggles with his illness, his younger sister struggles with her own feelings of inadequacy. It's tough for her to be the kid sister of a shining star. Both Parker, age seventeen, and his sister, Danielle, age fourteen, narrate the story, which alternates between their voices. Parker writes in prose, while Danielle expresses herself through free verse. It sounds contrived, but it isn't. The result is a beautiful portrait of the very real pressures that teenagers face. It is a story that is human, touching, and real.
The alternating narrative provides not only perspective to Parker's situation that readers wouldn't see if he were the sole narrator, but it also deftly, carefully, almost imperceptibly shows the effects of Parker's illness on his family. This narrative device also helps provide a window into the causes of his bulimia. Lastly, the free verse in particular adds a sense of beauty and melancholy that helps the reader relate to these two souls in a way that brings them to life and depicts an authentic teenage experience.
Parker and Danielle's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rabinowitz, are good people. They love their kids. They want what is best for them. They try very hard to be good parents. And they fall into the trap that many parents fall into with their kids - they push too hard in the name of doing what's best. These characters are on the periphery of the story, but they are still real human beings.
Friedman also creates friends for Parker and Danielle who ring true. The girlfriend/boyfriend relationships of the older kids are realistic without being risqué. The reader doesn't get too close to them, but then, neither does Parker. It is an effective way to help the reader feel how isolated Parker and Danielle both feel.
There is a countdown that accompanies each change of narrative. This device shows the passage of time within the story, but also effectively elevates a sense of suspense. As the book begins, the reader is told that Parker's narrative takes place "88 days before." The closer the story gets to that fateful day, the more that Parker and his family fall further apart. His bulimia and anxiety accelerate, Danielle's angst and identity struggle worsens, Mr. Rabinowitz struggles with his own challenging health problems, and Mrs. Rabinowitz struggles to keep it all together. Parker's girlfriend struggles, too, with his ever-increasing emotional distance from her. Yet because the story is so layered with each of these issues, it is impossible to predict just what will happen at the story's climax.
NOTHING grabs you from page one, draws you into the lives of these characters, and does not let go, culminating in a finale that is as satisfying as it is hopeful. It is a beautiful book.
Reviewed by: Marie Robinson
on January 27, 2009
Robin Friedman's novel, Nothing, traces the 88 days before his collapse as well as its aftermath. The story, told in alternating chapters by Parker and his younger sister, Danielle, feels inevitable and at times, frustrating. As Parker binges and purges, no one notices. The disease takes over his life, and he gets no help. He withdraws from family and friends. Friedman does an excellent job of showing the insidious nature of eating disorders. Parker's interior monologue is filled with isolation, self loathing, and insecurity. Although everyone else sees him as highly successful, the reader learns the terrifying truth. Unfortunately, there are some missteps. Parker's father's diagnosis of male breast cancer is strange at best, and makes us question how much Friedman trusts the reader. She also shows the worst stereotypes of a Jewish family. The Rabinowitz family's blatantly superficial Jewish experience, constant black tie events and named parties infuse a cynical tone to the text. Also, Parker often refers to Julianne, his non-Jewish girlfriend, as a shiksa. This uncomfortable, outdated language may have been used for humor, but it leaves the reader with less empathy for Parker. The best part of this book is Danielle. Her honest narratives, written in effective delineated prose, are filled with love, fear, and envy. Her scant comments harness the vulnerability and fear we all have when dealing with this disease. It is through Danielle that the reader experiences the breakdown and salvation of this Jewish family. Nothing offers a compelling discussion, recommended for readers 14 and up. Reviewed by Sara Aronson
on November 20, 2014
It was delivered very quickly, and is in perfect shape (no damage to the book whatsoever). It is a very easy read. It is difficult to find stories about people who are not white, teenage, females struggling with eating disorders. As a transgender person who struggles with OSFED, this can be disheartening, as most of the work surrounding eating disorders is not necessarily relateable to me. Since I identify as male, the closest I can come are books like this one. The story seems pretty spot on. Most of Parker's struggles with bulimia are relatable to me, although I struggle with atypical anorexia. The strive for perfectionism and filling an 'empty spot' are the same, and the fear of getting into any intimate relationships is, as well. Parker's struggles are so reminiscent of my own that I easily got lost in the story. I just received the book today, and I am almost done with it already. I would recommend this for any male who struggles with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or OSFED, and feels alone in his struggles. A good reminder that no one is immune to eating disorders, and a story that shows that they go far beyond just being about body image. For Parker, his bulimia seems to be a coping mechanism to deal with the stress that is building in his life.