Release Date: August 28th 2012
Publisher: Random House
Buy It: Book Depository
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.I was immediately surprised when I picked up The Stone Girl by its unusual point of view; third person present tense, especially for such a personal narrative. The only other examples that come to mind with the same POV are Lisa McMann's paranormal novels, the Dream Catcher Trilogy and Cryer's Cross, neither of which I fell in love with, so I was a little skeptical about how it would work. Still, I was willing to give The Stone Girl a shot, especially because of the author's moving note about how she struggled with an eating disorder, and I ended up glad that I did.
The Stone Girl is an emotional and sad story, it is the story of a downward spiral, and all the reader wants to do is reach out and stop Sethie from falling. It feels like everyone in her life doesn't notice when things start to decline, if anything; from her best friend teaching her to puke, to her mother's obsession with her body, they make things worse. Unfortunately, that felt authentic, because there are times when what starts as something a person gets compliments about, loosing a few pounds around the thighs, turns into something destructive and horrifying.
Although the POV worked better in Sheinmel's novel than it did in McMann's, I'm certainly not in love with it. It leads to story-telling filled with "Sethie" after "Sethie", and the result felt simplistic and even list-like at times; a slew of Sethie actions, but not as much the emotions. The reason I was glad I read The Stone Girl was that, even though I sometimes felt distanced from Sethie, when I did get a glimpse of the real her, it was absolutely heart-breaking. In some ways, the third person perspective worked because the reader felt the same disconnect that Sethie did with her own life, a body that no longer belonged to her, a person she didn't recognize.
I really felt like The Stone Girl tells an important story, and people will be able to relate to a lot of what Sethie goes through, especially when it comes to her sorta relationship with Shaw. The storyline with Shaw was the most heart-breaking for me, and the most authentic. Sethie's self-worth was all tied up in, not only her weight, but the way that Shaw treated her, if he kissed her or touched her. Even as a part of her knew that it wasn't right, she still wanted him, wanted to believe different. For me, the saddest moments had nothing at all to do with Sethie's eating disorder, and everything to do with Shaw.
The ending of The Stone Girl was a disappointment for me, because it seemed like a simplistic fix for a complicated problem, and I was conflicted over whether or not I was supposed to believe it would actually work. That's probably due to Sethie's unreliability as a narrator, the fact that you can't really trust the person with the disease to tell you the truth about it, but at the same time, it seemed like everyone else in her life believed it. I don't think it would be that easy.
Overall, The Stone Girl was a novel I struggled with, the POV wasn't one I particularly enjoyed and the ending left me longing for more, but it was a heart-breaking and emotional book with a secondary storyline that left a lasting impression on me. I am certainly curious to see how Alyssa B. Sheinmel handles subject matter less close to her heart, especially if it is written in an alternative point-of-view.