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"Before I Disappear," (Bookstand Publishing) by Barb Herding, is the fictional tale of 16-year-old Lauren Stafford and the teenagers she meets when she is hospitalized as a result of her eating disorder that has spiraled out of control, using fiction to treat a very serious topic.
Although their stories are fictional, Lauren and fellow patient, Jenny, use their eating disorders as coping mechanisms to deal with their emotional anguish, which is a very common catalyst for eating disorders, frequently caused by an attempt by the patient to exert control over their lives when they feel out of control or helpless. In the case of Lauren, her eating disorder is rooted in the feelings of rejection that pervade all of her interpersonal relationships, from her parents to her ex-boyfriend. Jenny has a dark secret that goes back to her childhood, a secret that, when told, has resulted in those she cares about being hurt. She has no control over her life and she has been deprived of control over her body, control that she attempts to regain by controlling her eating. She describes how she uses her eating disorder as a mechanism to cope with her emotional pain: "I'd hardly eaten anything for days. I'd learned if the hunger pains were bad enough, all the other pain went away."
Under the care of a concerned doctor, the patients suffering from eating disorders make tremendous strides towards overcoming the mental afflictions that underlie their problems. "Before I Disappear" arouses strong emotions in the readers and offers a serious warning about the physical manifestations that abuse, rejection, and other emotions that teenagers face can take. Herding skillfully interweaves important thematic elements into a page-turning story filled with compelling characters to which teenagers can relate, appealing to both young adults and their parents.
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