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Room Empty by Sarah Mussi


This was a hard read but a worthwhile one. It should be noted as a trigger warning that the book contains anorexia, drug abuse, child abuse and suicide. 

Room Empty is about Dani, a foster kid living at a rehab centre and being treated for anorexia. She meets Fletcher and, at his urging, they become recovery buddies. Dani isn't sure she wants to be rescued but Fletcher is determined to help her. They form a relationship outside of the bonds of 'buddies' and it has an intensity that both helps and hinders them. 

It'd be wrong to say that I liked this book, it was too brutal for that I think. What it did do was make me care deeply about both of these characters. Dani was rather unlikable but this is largely because she judges everyone, including herself, very harshly. She finds comfort in the manifestation of her illness, her alien, her thinness, who loves her only when she follows the rules. Fletcher challenges her constantly, to open up, to solve her illness like it was a puzzle but needs prodding to address his own addiction issues. I liked that these were two complicated, flawed characters; they had a genuine spark to them and however dark the path wandered I felt so much care and hope for them both. 

My quibble with the book was a small one but was perhaps something was done to keep the focus on the main characters. Dani was in rehab centre but did not seem to be received any kind of treatment beyond the group sessions. No one sat with her at meal times, there were no weigh-in sessions, no consequences for skipping meals, and it didn't feel realistic that this was the procedure for this kind of treatment. 

Overall it was a worthwhile read covering difficult issues with a great deal of empathy. 

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