________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 12 . . . . November 18, 2011


Pretty Bones. (Side Streets).

Aya Tsintziras.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2011.
141 pp., pbk. & hc. $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-712-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-713-8 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Anorexia nervosa-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Rob Bittner.

*** /4



Thatís my biggest wish, of course, to have never started this battle with the mirror. But those times are gone now. We can never get them back. Sometimes I miss the girl I used to be. It was easier, trying not to need anything. But I know better now.

Itís love and itís beauty and itís bones telling your story for you. Itís bottling up emotions, non-fat lattes, a love affair with a sad actor. Itís saying goodbye to your high school self and learning the rotations of the sun, the way your body works, the way to cry.

The mirror will have to wait. There is no ending here, only a second chance to begin.

Pretty Bones, by Aya Tsintziras, is sad yet uplifting. It is melancholy in tone, but with hints of hope scattered throughout to keep the narrative from feeling entirely irreparable. Raine and her mother barely manage to have a conversation without yelling at each other. Raineís boyfriend, Dylan, feels that heís losing his connection to her. And Raineís high school friends are feeling neglected and used at the same time. Raine has started on a journey of self-destruction filled with mirrors, scales, bottomless cups of coffee, and impossible weight goals. She is losing control, and she doesnít know how to stop. Her spiral into increasingly unhealthy behaviour at first feels overwhelming and somewhat improbable, but, as the narrative moves forward and Raineís past is better explained, the parts of her story come together into a cohesive whole.

      Raine is a sympathetic character even as she is incredibly infuriating. Her perception of her own body is tragic, and it leads her into a spiral of self-destructive behaviour beyond the development of anorexic behaviour. She begins to hurt herself, throw up food she has binged on, and remove herself from the presence of everyone who loves and/or is trying to help her. Her mother can barely communicate with Raine, and her pleas for Raine to get help go unheeded. Dylan grows increasingly concerned and upset about Raineís weight loss and her increasingly tired and disheveled appearance, but Raine refuses to accept his help, believing she is not in trouble. Her new friend, Andrew, is supposed to be her saving grace, but he has his own addictions with which to deal, and eventually their relationship spirals out of control just like everything in Raineís life.

      The narrative is fast-paced, moving through an entire year of Raineís life in under 150 pages. This is somewhat disconcerting as it can feel like important parts of life are being missed, but Tsintzirasí skill with words ensures that the most important parts of Raineís struggles and triumphs are covered within the novel. The writing is succinct, powerful, and subtle at the same time. Tsintziras prose style is engaging and engrossing, pulling the reader into Raineís head and her perceptions of herself. Readers canít help but become infuriated that they canít help Raine in some way. The first-person narrative style is insightful and helps create a very realistic understanding of what goes through the mind of someone suffering from anorexia. Pretty Bones is important and a must-have for library shelves.


Rob Bittner has an MA in Childrenís and Young Adult Literature from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He enjoys reading all things YA and has a keen interest in teen culture and the impact of fiction on identity development in adolescents.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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