Author: Heather Topham Wood
Publication Date: 7 May, 2013
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Amazon | Goodreads
Kayla Marlowe is slowly vanishing…
Last year, Kayla’s world imploded. Her beloved father died, leaving her alone with a narcissistic mother who is quick to criticize her daughter’s appearance. During her winter break from college, Kayla’s dangerous obsession with losing weight begins.
Kayla feels like her world changes for the better overnight. Being skinny seems to be the key to the happiness she has desperately been seeking. Her mother and friends shower her with compliments, telling her how fantastic she looks. Kayla is starving, but no one knows it.
Cameron Bennett explodes into Kayla’s life. He’s sexy and kind—he has every quality she has been looking for in a guy. As Cameron grows closer to Kayla and learns of how far she’s willing to go to stay thin, he becomes desperate to save her.
Kayla’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia reach a breaking point and she is forced to confront her body image issues in order to survive. She wonders if Cameron could be the one to help heal her from the pain of her past.
New Adult Contemporary-Ages 17+
I couldnt help but compare The Disappearing Girl with Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (because of the similar storyline), and I have to say it fares well when done so.
Kayla is an introvert who likes to stay away from the spotlight. Most times, she tries to avoid an altercation with anyone. She also has very low self esteem, which is a direct result of her mother's acidic remarks about her weight. Her father's dead, so there's no one to buffer the harsh judgement meted out by her mother. The grief, the low self esteem, the remarks all bowl over and Kayla soon develops an eating disorder. She also meets a lovely guy Cameron along the way, and they're perfect for each other. It is Cameron who first notices her unnatural behaviour and tries to persuade her to get help.
Kayla was a very relatable character for me; the shyness, the staying away from the spotlight... I'm like that in real life. The eating problems set in pretty fast, almost at the beginning of the book, and I felt that was a bit too abrupt; before we could get a sense of Kayla as a normal girl. I loved the relationship between Kayla and her younger sister, Lila. It reminded me a lot of my own relationship with my sister. Even when Kayla is undergoing some crazy shit (the disorder), it doesn't reflect on her relationship with Lila. I loved how fiercely protective they were of each other and took a united stance against their mother's continuous haranguing about their weight. Cameron is a wonderful, very likeable guy. He's confident and self assured, and at the same time he's also gentle and gentlemanly. He's one of the first to notice something wrong, and he tries his best to get her help. You really do feel for him when he's in pain and struggling with seeing the love of his life this way.
The Disappearing Girl does share some similarities with Wintergirls (eg: the Pro-Ana site), but it stand out from it in many ways too. It delves much more deeply into the healing process and the circumstances of the protagonist, for one. If you've read Wintergirls, you'll remember that it had a sort of dreamy and 'in her head' kind of writing style that really got to you. The Disappearing Girl follows the more conventional way of story writing. However, there were moments when the characters commented on something very obvious, which was unnecessary, made me go, 'Oh, really? I had no idea.' I can be sarcastic.
The reason I picked up this book was because I was interested to see how the author worked eating disorders into the book, and I wanted to know more about it too. The book isn't very explicit on that subject, but still gives enough detail so that we feel invested in the characters.
A word on the cover - it reminds me very much of the cover of Hysteria by Megan Miranda. Book covers usually have an effect on how I judge a book (I'm weird like that), and this one kind of ticked me off.
Bottomline: The Disappearing Girl is a great read for those who want to read realistic fiction about eating disorders, but also want don't want it to play with their head! :)
I was about to begin the last book of my paranormal romance series when I was struck with this idea to document a college girl’s struggle with an eating disorder while simultaneously falling in love for the first time. It wasn’t easy to write and I had to delve into my own complicated feelings about food and my weight.
2. You started your professional writing career as a freelance writer. Did you always want to be a writer? At what point did you decide that you wanted to write fiction?
I’ve been writing for a long time, but I think it took me a long time to actually consider writing as a career. I started out doing freelance assignments to make money working at home after I had my son. I found some old writings a couple of years ago I had done while in high school and it inspired me to get back to fiction writing.
3. Your books, other than the Second Sight series, are about serious issues like depression, anorexia and bulimia. What draws you to these types of subjects?
When you put it like that, I must sound like a really morbid person. I’m not, I swear! I like escapist novels as much as the next person, but I also like to read books that touch on subjects that make me as a reader reconsider my views on certain topics.
4. Do you ever have to step back and take a breather while you’re writing a particularly emotional scene?
Yes! There was one particular scene in The Disappearing Girl that had me take a breather for a few days. It involved a confrontation between Cameron and Kayla about her eating disorder and I was left feeling bothered by it for a long time afterwards. Usually I have other writing projects going on when I need that kind of break.
5. Have you encountered criticism due to writing books that deal with these intense subjects?
The Disappearing Girl isn’t going to be for everyone and I understand that. It’s tough to read about some of the things that Kayla does in the quest to be skinny. But I also wanted to show that people with these problems can still have their HEAs.
6. If you could give any advice to the teens who go through things similar to your characters (in The Disappearing Girl and Shattered Love), what would it be?
I think it’s important to keep positive people around you and that will help you through the tougher times. Kayla connects with other girls who are suffering from anorexia and it’s one of the hurdles that she faces to get better.
7. Of all the characters in The Disappearing Girl, whom do you relate to the most? And why?
I guess at times Kayla. I’ve also done things to get skinny that I’m not proud of. My experiences weren’t as extreme as Kayla, but I was able to share some of the feelings I felt while dieting.
8. You’ve been blogging since before you wrote your first book. Any advice for bloggers who are aspiring authors?
Try to make time for your writing. Life has a tendency to get in the way and you have to make an effort to finish a book. I love things like NaNoWriMo because it encourages you to meet a daily word count.
9. Have you ever experienced anything similar to any of your characters?
Well, the main character in my Second Sight series falls in love with a cop and I’m married to one =)
10. What are you reading right now?
I just started Stung by Bethany Wiggins. I like it so far, very action packed. I thought I was over YA dystopian books, but I’m really enjoying it.
11. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
Off the top of my head: Pride and Prejudice, Gone With the Wind, Unravel Me, Lothaire and The Host.
12. What are your 5 favorite tv shows of all time?
Felicity, Dawson’s Creek, Roswell, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries.
13. What are your 5 favorite bands/ musicians of all time?
Mumford & Sons, Dashboard Confessional, Pearl Jam, Mazzy Star and Belly.
14. I read that you like supernatural stuff, so I'm assuming you watch Supernatural?
Of course! Love it!
15. So who's your favourite? Sam or Dean?
Dean, but not by a landslide, Sam is also awesome.Thank you for visiting with us today, Heather! It's been a pleasure having you with us! :)