GUEST WRITER ELIZABETH ANDREWS RECOMMENDS GOOD ENOUGH BY JEN PETRO-ROY
Jen Petro-Roy knows first-hand what is like to live with, and recover from, an eating- disorder. Drawing from her own experiences, she created Good Enough—a realistic piece of fiction aimed at middle level students. Structured as a journal, the story documents the experiences of the main character, Riley, as she undergoes treatment for anorexia nervosa. Riley is struggling. No matter how hard she tries, she feels she isn’t “good enough”, that she will never measure up to her sister (the amazing gymnast) and that she isn’t a good enough runner, daughter, or friend. Food however, and controlling her eating, well…that is something she is “good” at.
The story begins as Riley is forced into treatment and is required to journal her experience. Each day she documents her struggles and successes on her journey to recovery. With the help of her therapist, and some newfound friends, Riley works hard to silence the negative voice inside her head so that she can begin to heal.
One thing I love about this book was the realness of it; Riley’s journey is not linear. There are setbacks and leaps of faith. There is growth and failure. And this does not just apply to just our main character, Riley, but to her parents, friends, and those in therapy with her. This really reveals how this disease impacts a person’s life and the lives of those around them. While the book ends on an optimistic note, Jen Petro-Roy leaves the reader with a healthy dose of realism: Riley, like every other eating disorder survivor, will battle this disease forever. However, the most important thing is that she learns is that she is “good enough” and that she has the strength, and, ability, to overcome it.
While this is a difficult topic, the author presents it in an age-appropriate way. She also fills the story with humor, warmth, and hope. I found myself laughing and connecting to Riley on the first page. There is so much that students can relate to in this text, even if they have no prior understanding of disordered eating. They will connect with bullying and Riley’s experiences with school. They will relate to her lack of self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy—feeling like you can never measure up to others. This book will be perfect for students who enjoy character development; the driving force here is the connection to Riley and the desire to understand and empathize with her experience.
Finally, you may be wondering, how can I use this in my teaching? For starters, I think it would make an excellent read-aloud. It is a great piece of first-person fiction and the voice is strong right from the start. Hearing this would be almost better than reading it; there are so many opportunities for expression and comedic timing. You could also set the pace well this way and use it to build suspense for the reader, encouraging engagement from students that normally wouldn’t connect to this type of book. There are also numerous examples of great writing for you to use for a writer’s notebook. I know I have about twelve sticky notes in my copy, flagging some great writing opportunities. My recommendation though would be to read this first, before reading it to your students. I think it will really help you make some choices in how you want to present it.
Don’t hesitate to add this to your collection of realistic fiction. It would transition well to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Skinny by Donna Cooner, or even Butter by Erin Jade Lange; although, these suggestions would be better aimed at grade 8 or 9 students. Happy reading!
By HOLLY GOLDBERG SLOAN and MEG WOLITZER
Elizabeth Andrews is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches grade 6, 7, and 8 Language Arts, Art, and Music at Chipman Forest Avenue School in Chipman, New Brunswick. She is self-declared nerd and lover of science fiction and fantasy.
“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” ~ Tyrion Lannister (A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin)