The book, from beginning to end, is a document of anger. There’s quiet fury at its center — a nuclear sun that radiates not out at the world, but back at the author herself. This is decidedly not the work of someone who’s worked through all her issues, as the jargon goes. And yet: The author’s anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning — which goes against every received idea of what good memoir is, and how it ought it to function ... Burton’s memoir is valuable because she goes beyond simply confessing her shame; she rakes herself over the coals, and in doing so she models how anger can be used to clarify a story ... [The] contrast between her controlled, achieving self and her uncontrolled eating self is enacted not just in the story, but in the voice of the memoir itself, with its berating of her younger self. Burton is alive to this contradiction ... Her book is fueled by just the kind of emotion that makes me uncomfortable, the kind we might call unprocessed. She isn’t the cool dispassionate narrator we are used to seeing. But her anger, in the end, clarifies and intensifies our view of her dilemma; it becomes an illuminating force. Burton ate because she was angry at herself; she’s angry at herself because she ate; it’s a circle of rage and shame that any addict can understand ... Her fury, then, is like a flashing light in a cave, or a portal. The force of it makes us not just appreciate but actually feel the force that drove her to commit her actions in the first place. The result is a book that wields a fearsome intimacy. Her anger takes us with her, back to that place of self-hatred and compulsion — back to the kitchen counter, scooping granola by the handful into her open mouth.
... powerful ... An editor for This American Life, Burton has been an avid reader, writer, and journal-keeper since childhood, the effects of which are felt throughout her stirringly crafted book. Just as she, suffering intensely and alone, pored over the few eating-disorder memoirs available in her college library, readers who see themselves in these pages will find invaluable identification and even comfort. It’s also a breathtakingly related depiction of growing up and the intimacies of family, friendship, and romantic love. All memoir-lovers will be taken by Burton’s elegant prose, rare self-insight, and layered, superconfessional storytelling.
This American Life producer Burton debuts with an unfiltered discussion of how binge eating and anorexia plagued her throughout her adolescence and into her 20s ... Burton ably recreates her anxiety-filled youth, when she struggled with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s alcoholism, and with eating disorders. She offers raw descriptions of binging late at night in her kitchen as a teen ... Burton convincingly conveys the desperation and darkness of eating disorders.
The author has been a vigilant personal archivist and chooses pertinent anecdotes to exemplify her mental and physical states ... However, the surfeit of information on her high school years—friends, acting, a summer job, boyfriends, and so on—distracts from the bigger picture. The level of detail is evidence of Burton’s original aim of writing a history of teenage girlhood. While the book is a valuable addition to the literature on eating disorders—which Burton likens to heroin in their addictiveness—the focus slips, making the middle third a slog ... A powerful picture of anorexia and binge-eating disorder that would benefit from being shorter and more targeted.