Book Review: Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Elena Dunkle
I picked this book up because e.E.Charlton-Trujillo posted on her instagram about it and I thought I would take her advice on what to read (she’s a discerning reader and knows all about great Young Adult literature, being a great YA writer herself). She wrote “There are about twenty books that I wish could be taught in every high school in America. This is one of them.” (The photo below is from her page.)
So, truthfully, it took me a long time to read Elena Vanishing from start to finish. I found myself reading 20 or 30 pages and having to put it down and walk away from it. It was powerful and raw, but so hard to read about a young woman who cannot see her own beauty.
I have had students in the past who have struggled with an eating disorder, and although I remember telling them how smart and beautiful they were, I still never could really understand what they were grappling with and how they were feeling. This book has offered me a window to a struggle I’ve never really known. One quote to consider in this vein: “Where does thin become fat? Where does success become failure? Where does a great future become a horrible past full of heartache and regret?”
When I finished, I handed it off to a ninth grade teacher and talked to some of them about maybe using it with Speak or for their memoir units. In the end, it is a book that made me uncomfortable, and I think that’s important to feel. I am consciously seeking that in my reading these days rather than defaulting to what I know I will love and what will not necessarily, as the kids say, help me be woke (or get woke? still learning that one).