Today at The Book Addict’s Guide is my stop on the blog tour for THE STONE GIRL by Alyssa B. Sheinmel. I was lucky enough to be approached to be part of the tour as well as interview Alyssa and post a quick review.
Before we launch into the interview, here’s a little more info on THE STONE GIRL:
Synopsis (from RandomHouse.com): She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.
Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.
Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.
Alyssa Sheinmel gives us an extremely realistic story of a girl already in the midst of struggling with her body image and is progressing further into the realm of eating disorders. Sethie’s story is both touching and alarming – We really get to see inside of her life as her obsession with her weight slowly takes priority and she loses touch with all of the other things in her life: her boyfriend, her friends, her mom, her schoolwork.
One of the main focuses, which I enjoyed, was seeing the ups and downs of the relationships that Sethie makes and loses throughout the story. Right from the start we see her struggling with Shaw, we see her make a new best friend in Janey (who I was skeptical of at first, but ended up really loving), and shut out her mom who is her only parent. I think we see the most how Sethie’s obsession with her weight really controls her by how it affects her relationships. She really starts to withdraw from her everyday life because it’s too hard to keep all of it a secret once people start to get close.
I was actually a little bit glad to see this story because even though it’s quite serious, I think it’s an issue that a lot of young girls are dealing with and they may be able to see themselves in Sethie’s character. We do see a lot of the dark side of Sethie’s struggle and turmoil, but in the end I think the reader gets a positive message and for those who relate to the story, they learn that it’s okay to let people in and ask for help.
I really enjoyed how THE STONE GIRL concluded and it left me with a lot of hope and a soft spot in my heart for all of these characters.
Alyssa B. Sheinmel was kind enough to grant me an interview as we talk about THE STONE GIRL and how Sethie’s story came to be:
THE STONE GIRL is definitely a very gritty and realistic view of the side of teenage life that often goes untold due to its sensitive nature. How did you decide to share Sethie’s story with us?
AS: Honestly, this wasn’t a book that I wanted to write. But, I guess I always knew that I would end up writing a book that dealt in some way with eating disorders whether I wanted to or not, since there was a time when body-obsession was a big part of my own life. Once I got the idea for The Stone Girl, once an image of Sethie popped into my head, I couldn’t keep myself from telling her story.
The descriptions of what Sethie puts herself through — both physically and mentally — is just heartbreaking to read and I really felt her struggle. Was it hard for you to write?
AS: It was; this book was harder for me to write than anything I’d written before. In order to write the book, I had to go back to the places I’d carved out for myself when I was at my most body-obsessed. Sometimes I was scared that I would get lost in those places; sometimes I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get to them at all, since I’m so far from them now. But they were right back where I left them, and fortunately, they weren’t difficult to leave behind.
Even though we go through quite a difficult journey with Sethie, I think that the readers end up with a positive message at the end and one of hope. What’s the main idea you really want readers to take away from Sethie’s story in THE STONE GIRL?
AS: I’m not sure I really can say what I’d like readers to take away from one of my books – I feel like that part happens long after the book is out of my hands. I do hope that Sethie’s story provides a little bit of insight into eating disorders for readers who’ve never experienced the diseases themselves. And, I hope that readers who have struggled with the disease find a character they can relate to, one who might make them feel less alone. I tried to end the story in a hopeful place, though not a simple one; Sethie has a lot of work to do, and it may take her a long time to be healthy. Most of all, I hope that readers will feel that I’ve told Sethie’s story honestly and truly, a tale of one girl’s experiences.
I think one of my favorite characters was Janey. I love the way she matured throughout the book and turned into so much more than the person we first met. Was her character influenced by anyone in your life?
AS: Janey was a bit of an amalgam of girls I knew in high school in college. I think sometimes our friends – even our best friends – can harm us without meaning to. It was a friend who taught me how to make myself throw up, just as Janey taught Sethie. My friend thought she was helping me, just as Janey thought she was helping Sethie. Certainly, Janey never meant to hurt Sethie; she truly loves her best friend. Friendships can be so complicated in that respect – we can hurt each other when we least intend it – and I wanted to show that dynamic between Sethie and Janey.
I know that this was your first book written in the third person (with The Beautiful Between and The Lucky Kind narrated in the first person). How did you end up deciding not having Sethie narrate her story to us?
AS: Honestly, this was just the voice that popped into my head when I began thinking about this story. I do really love writing in the third person, though; I think there are things you can say in the third person that you just can’t say in the first.
And now The Book Addict’s Guide’s “A little less serious and a little more fun” Quick Bookish Q&A!
Where is your favorite place to read/write?
AS: I’m so boring – at my desk.
Are there any authors you’re dying to meet?
AS: So many! I’ve actually gotten to meet two of my very favorites – Alice Hoffman and Joan Didion – but I would love, love, love the chance to sit down and have a real conversation with each of them.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
AS: That is a totally impossible question to answer! I cannot possibly pick just one!
Who’s your biggest literary crush?
AS: Ernest Hemingway.
Who’s your favorite literary villain?
AS: Mr. Wickham.
Romance or Sci-fi?
AS: Paperback or hardcover.
A really big thanks to Alyssa B. Sheinmel for the interview! Some really beautiful answers and it was so great to get to know a little more behind the book. Also thank you again for having me be a part of the blog tour!
THE STONE GIRL comes out on August 28, 2012 and is now available for pre-order. Check out Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or support your local independent bookstore if they have a copy!
Here’s where you can find out more info on Alyssa & THE STONE GIRL: