Review: What I Lost – Alexandra Ballard


Genre: Contemporary, YA

Publication Date: June 6th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Format: Hardcover copy I purchased myself. 

What sixteen-year-old Elizabeth has lost so far: forty pounds, four jean sizes, a boyfriend, and her peace of mind. As a result, she’s finally a size zero. She’s also the newest resident at Wallingfield, a treatment center for girls like her—girls with eating disorders. Elizabeth is determined to endure the program so she can go back home, where she plans to start restricting her food intake again. She’s pretty sure her mom, who has her own size 0 obsession, needs treatment as much as she does. Maybe even more. Then Elizabeth begins receiving mysterious packages. Are they from her ex-boyfriend, a secret admirer, or someone playing a cruel trick?


Content warnings: eating disorders (very detailed descriptions, weight talk etc), self-harm, anxiety, depression, mental health. 

Holy crap this book. I don’t know if I just picked it up at the right time or what but it just resonated with me and I loved it. It’s raw and unfiltered but honestly just brilliant. That ending. The ending was what I needed to read, put it that way. No spoilers, don’t worry!

I loved the growth of Elizabeth as the story progresses. We hear her thoughts change and develop as time goes on, and what she learns in the process. I loved this. Nothing felt forced, she didn’t magically get better, it was real. It felt real. I have no experience of inpatient ED treatment so cannot comment on that aspect specifically, but her thought processes nonetheless felt genuine.

The friendships she made were so so beautiful and I loved each and every one of her friends. SHE HAD GOOD FRIENDS. I swear there are so many books out there which focus on mental health where the friends are just absent, but I loved her friends here. It was such a wonderful addition to the story that she still had contact with her friends from school. 

The mystery packages added an extra dimension to the story which held my interest but didn’t overshadow the main focus (Elizabeth’s recovery) which I did initially worry would happen. I loved the outcome, but will say no more about it. 

The focus on family was extremely well done too; everyone’s situation was different but shown with empathy and they felt genuine. No perfect families were included, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Everyone has their own struggles and it takes a lot for someone to recognise theirs and this was explored a lot throughout this novel. 

This review is one long gushing mess, and for that, I apologise. As long as it’s safe for you to do so, I strongly encourage you to pick this one up! I hadn’t heard of it before I stumbled upon it on Amazon, but it’s so, so worth a read. The representation (from my experience – though I don’t want to go into that too much) is extremely well done and I cannot recommend this book enough if you want a book about eating disorders. 

Rating: 5 / 5 🌟 


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