Happy publication day to E.J. Schwartz and her debut novel Before We Were Blue. Many thanks to E.J. and to Flux for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.
Get healthy on their own—or stay sick together?
At Recovery and Relief, a treatment center for girls with eating disorders, the first thing Shoshana Winnick does is attach herself to vibrant but troubled Rowan Parish. Shoshana—a cheerleader on a hit reality TV show—was admitted for starving herself to ensure her growth spurt didn’t ruin her infamous tumbling skills. Rowan, on the other hand, has known anorexia her entire life, thanks to her mother’s “chew and spit” guidance. Through the drudgery and drama of treatment life, Shoshana and Rowan develop a fierce intimacy—and for Rowan, a budding infatuation, that neither girl expects.
As “Gray Girls,” patients in the center’s Gray plan, Shoshana and Rowan are constantly under the nurses’ watchful eyes. They dream of being Blue, when they will enjoy more freedom and the knowledge that their days at the center are numbered. But going home means separating and returning to all the challenges they left behind. The closer Shoshana and Rowan become, the more they cling to each other—and their destructive patterns. Ultimately, the girls will have to choose: their recovery or their relationship.
Before We Were Blue is a sensitively written YA novel that I think, sadly, will strike a chord with many young people living in a world where image is everything. I am fortunate in that eating disorders have never been something that I have ever had any experience of, and Before We Were Blue was a real eye-opener for me. Written from the dual perspectives of Rowan and Shoshana, it explores how two very different girls find themselves in the same place and form an incredibly strong bond as they each battle their personal demons.
Rowan is a character that I struggled with initially. She struck me straightaway as dangerous, someone who would drag Shoshana down through fear of being left behind. Her obsession with Shoshana scared me a little and I was unsure where E.J. Schwartz was going to take this. However, as the story progressed, it became clear that Shoshana needed Rowan as much as Rowan needed her.
Before We Were Blue is not a comfortable read, and nor should it be. It tackles a number of sensitive issues, but does so with a sympathetic hand and without the inclusion of anything purely for the shock factor.