The giveaway has ended. Thanks to everyone for entering!
I’m so, SO thrilled to have Stephanie Elliot here on the blog today! She is the author of the upcoming YA contemporary novel Sad Perfect. This book has some incredibly important messages about mental health, and it also raises awareness about an eating disorder that many people have never heard of before, ARFID.
This book meant so much to me personally because of the topics that it discusses, but it is also incredibly entertaining and very swoony! This beauty comes out on February 28th, so be sure to add it to your TBR piles and enter our giveaway below, so you can have the chance to get your hands on it a little early! Check out my full review of Sad Perfect here!
About Sad Perfect
The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.
Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.
Interview with Stephanie Elliot
Was writing about Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) difficult for you due to your family’s own experience with the disorder? Or did having that experience make the writing process easier for you?
The writing part wasn’t difficult. That was actually therapeutic for me. Going through the experience of our daughter having this disorder and none of us knowing what it was for 15 years, then finally finding out it was called ARFID, then having her in a 20-week outpatient intensive program—that was difficult. Writing about it was easy because I got to put down everything that I was seeing on the outside happening and I got to ‘fictionalize’ some of the stuff as well.
ARFID is an eating disorder (ED), which I personally had never heard of before. Was spreading awareness about this condition one of your goals in writing this book?
Absolutely my main goal now that the writing is over is to spread awareness about ARFID. For so many years my daughter was physically unable to eat foods that were unfamiliar to her. Literally, she could not do it. People around her – friends, other family, people in her social circles DIDN’T understand. They judged her, criticized her, criticized our family, and the way we raised her. This is not something children or adults can handle on their own. They can’t fix this by themselves. It takes therapy and hard work to learn how to eat the foods that they fear. I want people who read Sad Perfect to understand what this eating disorder is; that it is different from other eating disorders, not better, not worse, DIFFERENT, and that while all types of eating disorders are extremely serious, ARFID is led by the fear of food, the fear that eating an unsafe food will kill you.
Readers get the opportunity to learn a lot about ARFID by reading Sad Perfect, but is there anything else about the disorder that you didn’t get to include in the story that you would like your readers to be aware of?
I talked about the anxiety and depression that is a part of ARFID, and there’s also a risk of self-harm and the possibility of suicidal thoughts. Isolating oneself from friends and family is a big part of ARFID as well. Since ARFID has only been studied and recognized for about three years, there aren’t statistics on the disorder yet, but boys and girls are at risk.
From what my daughter’s doctor has seen, many of those afflicted experienced trauma in utero that brings forth ARFID. It stems from the adrenal system being off balance; ARFID patients have high adrenal flow and their cortisol levels aren’t regulated. I didn’t get into all of that in the book, but basically, in simpler terms, the flight or fight factor is off in their systems. They can get very panicky and nervous—almost like a deer in headlights. The body has to feel a sense of calm in order to get to the level or comfort so a person can begin to heal from this disorder. It takes a lot of work, and my daughter did Somatic Experience Therapy as one piece of her journey to recovery.
Pea seems to have a difficult time relating to other people, even those who also suffer from EDs. Is that driven by the fact that her own disorder is so unique?
From my experience with my own daughter having ARFID, I have seen her avoid people in social situations, and be uncomfortable in a group of her peers when there is food around, and also when food is not present. I based some of Pea’s personality traits on this.
I have no idea how other people with eating disorders feel while interacting with other people with eating disorders. I imagine some may feel connected to others, and some may feel a disconnect. Maybe anorexic people feel judged by bulimics or vice versa. I do know teens, especially girls, are quick to judge one another in group settings, and those settings can be uncomfortable. I also know that from my daughter’s experience, at the beginning of her teen therapy, she felt isolated as she was the only teen in her group with ARFID. After going for a few weeks though, she began to relax and get to know the girls and they became friends and confided in each other.
EDs are something that are so serious and prevalent in our society. I’m always happy to see authors addressing these issues in YA novels, but because of the seriousness of EDs, it seems like they would be really intimidating subject matter to write about. How did you approach writing about EDs, and what kind of research did you have to do?
The research I did was, sadly, living through it with my daughter. I saw her through years of countless doctor visits, panic attacks, visits to the ER, her refusal and fear of trying any type of new foods, isolation from friends, and eventually dissolving friendships. When she couldn’t physically attend school we had to find alternative schooling for her. We had to get her on medication. We had to go to therapy as a family. She had to go to an intensive outpatient therapy program. I didn’t have to research anything about ARFID, we just had to finally figure out what she had, learn how to properly treat it, and live through it all.
Ben is a SUPER swoony love interest. In your acknowledgments you mention a boy who held your own daughter’s hands at a certain point in her life. How much of Ben is based on that boy, and how much of him is pure fiction?
The part about how Ben and Pea meet is true. My daughter met a boy on the river, they held hands and floated that day, and she dated him for a few months. After that river scene everything else is fiction about Ben. My daughter is still friendly with this boy but I don’t think he knows I based the beginning of the book on their meeting.
This book is told in second person, which is very unique and not something we see a lot of in books. What made you choose to write from that point of view?
I didn’t actually realize I was writing in second person until way down the line. I started writing this story because I wanted to capture the experience my daughter had had when she met the boy on the river, never in my mind thinking I was writing a book about her eating disorder. So essentially, I was writing a short piece about her day on the river. Then I kept writing and it became so much more. Since I was literally writing about my daughter on the river, and the first chapter was about ‘her’ originally, I didn’t have a character in mind, and that’s why it’s in second person. I didn’t want to name her. She became “you.” Later in the manuscript, I realized she needed some identifier at some point, so her dad nicknames her Pea.
There are so many amazing themes in this book including EDs, mental health, family, and forgiveness. If you could pick one message you want your readers to walk away from this book with, what would it be?
The ultimate goal I have for this book is to let people know that there is this eating disorder out there called ARFID. A lot of people have it who are undiagnosed. It’s not just picky eating. It’s serious, it affects the whole family, and it can’t be fixed on its own. Everyone knows someone with ARFID, or will someday, and my hope is that they will understand and offer sympathy to those struggling.
Enter the Giveaway
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for the opportunity to win a copy of Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot. This giveaway will end at midnight on 02/22/17. Sorry, open to U.S. shipping addresses only due to the cost of shipping.
Stephanie Elliot is the author of the young adult novel Sad Perfect (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter, 2017), which was inspired by her own daughter’s journey with ARFID, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. She has written for a variety of websites and magazines and has been a passionate advocate of other authors by promoting their books on the Internet for years. She has been, or still is, all of the following: a book reviewer, an anonymous parenting columnist, a mommy blogger, an editor, a professional napper, a reformed Diet Coke drinker, a gecko breeder and the author of three self-published novels.
A Florida native, Stephanie has lived near Chicago and Philadelphia and currently calls Scottsdale, Arizona home. She graduated from Northern Illinois University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Stephanie and her husband Scott have three children: AJ, McKaelen and Luke. They are all her favorites.
Are you planning on reading Sad Perfect when it comes out this month? What are your favorite YA books that discuss mental health or eating disorders? Have you ever read a book told in second person before?