Growing up sucks. Struggling to cope with the constant stress of school, her mother, and her confusing social life, sixteen-year-old Grace Edwards finds sanity in the most destructive of ways: dieting and self-harming. But just when Grace thinks she has everything under control, a classmate catches her cutting in the girls’ locker room, and Grace’s entire
life is flipped upside down.
Now she’s faced with the unthinkable – a stint in a psych ward with kids who seem so much worse than she is. After all, she’s not sick. She’s totally okay. She’ll never do it again. But the longer Grace stays, the more she realizes that the kids in the ward aren’t that different from her.
Slowly Grace comes to terms with her mental illness, but as her discharge date crawls closer, she knows that the outside world is an unpredictable place . . . and one which whispers temptations about hidden food, dangerous objects, and failure to stay in recovery.
TW: This book contains self-harm, anorexia, mental health issues, psychiatric wards and hospitals.
Life has become a bit of an emotional whirlwind for sixteen-year-old, Grace Edwards, stemming all the way back to when her father left due to an affair her mother had been having. That, alongside high school taking it’s toll on her, she is growing more miserable and living up to expectations only a superhero could handle. With her exams and finding the perfect college becoming her main priority, whilst also getting extra-curricular through the Varsity Soccer team, things begin to fall apart.
High School really is a torturous place, no matter the situation, however, I can completely see how Grace took the turn she did. When it’s comes to athletics, you are expected to have the perfect body image, but what sixteen-year-old’s don’t know, is that our bodies are all so different and just because Grace doesn’t have the flattest stomach or the thinnest legs, it doesn’t mean she couldn’t whoop all their butts in a Soccer match. However, at such a young age, you aren’t going to have that outlook and as Grace said, life becomes consumed with losing weight, causing her anorexia.
Finding acceptance in what had happened was extremely difficult for Grace, to the point where she resisted cooperating with the Psychiatric Ward. Her independence had been robbed from her and she had no say in anything. I didn’t know anything about eating disorders until reading this book and honestly, it is so heartbreaking to witness what goes on in a person’s mind and the healing process they have to go through. It’s a really insightful look at how different types of mental illness’ can affect the people surrounding us and I know first hand how difficult that can be when you’re dealing with your own. It really allows you to open up your eyes and see that so many people are struggling the way you are. You are never alone.
I found it really fascinating as well that I was able to learn more about private health care amongst the US, being from the UK. Whilst being referred to wards in the UK can take a matter of struggles before you get there, the US have a different practice, where Grace self-harms and is placed in a ward in the matter of a couple of hours. I was especially intrigued with the treatment she had to follow and how each person she met with an eating disorder reacted differently. There were some cases worse than Grace’ and there was some that were on the mild side. Some cooperated, some refused. I think it was really important that Grace was amongst people with the same diagnosis, as it allowed her to see that although some people refused, there was still some that also followed their plan and supported Grace with it also. That doesn’t mean that Grace didn’t have her setbacks, because that wouldn’t be realistic, however, I think she had a great support system around her and she was very lucky in that matter.
One of my favourite moments that Julia touches on, is that of how Grace’ diagnosis, also affects the people surrounding her, such as family and friends. Grace had a very complex relationship with her mother and I don’t know whether that was because of her age, or because of the past. I could feel myself getting agitated with the way Grace spoke to her mother, who only had Grace’ best interests at heart and although she came across as smothering sometimes, it was easy to see that she was struggling to find ways to connect with her daughter and support her without being yelled at.
Changing Ways is, to sum it up, a complex read, with difficult concepts throughout, therefore I would recommend reading when you are in a good place yourself. I have never dealt with self-harm or an eating disorder, so it didn’t trigger me in a relatable way, however it does have the power to trigger you in to falling back in to a dark place if you don’t take care of yourself and have those well-needed breaks throughout the story. It can be emotionally draining at times, but I think what makes this book so special, is that the author has gone through a lot of Grace’ story herself and I feel more comforted knowing that information, as she has respected the sensitive topics within.