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Nothing by Robin Friedman

Nothing (edition 2008)

by Robin Friedman

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475247,300 (3.69)None
Authors:Robin Friedman
Info:Flux (2008), Edition: 1, Paperback, 232 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:young adult fiction, eating disorder, mental illness, overachievers

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Nothing by Robin Friedman


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I didn't connect with this novel at all - the characters were flat, the medical science questionable, and the dialogue/plot twists contrived and cliched - but I blew through it really fast so at least it was a quick read. I just think that, if someone is looking for a nuanced and helpful YA novel about a bulimic young Jewish teenage boy dealing with EDs and parental/societal pressures, you could do better than Nothing. But it could be used as a conversation starter about teenage boys with eating disorders, so it's got that going for it. ( )
  SarahHayes | Feb 20, 2017 |
This book is take on what it is like to have bulimia if you are a guy. So many books deal with bulimia in girls but there are guys who suffer from it also. Also male breast cancer. ( )
  TeamDewey | Mar 16, 2014 |
Reviewed by Marie Robinson for TeensReadToo.com

It is a rare occurrence for me to read a book all the way through in one sitting, yet that is exactly what happened with NOTHING. I could not put it down.

It is the story of a high school senior struggling with bulimia. What makes this story unique is that the bulimic student is a boy. As he struggles with his illness, his younger sister struggles with her own feelings of inadequacy. It's tough for her to be the kid sister of a shining star. Both Parker, age seventeen, and his sister, Danielle, age fourteen, narrate the story, which alternates between their voices. Parker writes in prose, while Danielle expresses herself through free verse. It sounds contrived, but it isn't. The result is a beautiful portrait of the very real pressures that teenagers face. It is a story that is human, touching, and real.

The alternating narrative provides not only perspective to Parker's situation that readers wouldn't see if he were the sole narrator, but it also deftly, carefully, almost imperceptibly shows the effects of Parker's illness on his family. This narrative device also helps provide a window into the causes of his bulimia. Lastly, the free verse in particular adds a sense of beauty and melancholy that helps the reader relate to these two souls in a way that brings them to life and depicts an authentic teenage experience.

Parker and Danielle's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rabinowitz, are good people. They love their kids. They want what is best for them. They try very hard to be good parents. And they fall into the trap that many parents fall into with their kids - they push too hard in the name of doing what's best. These characters are on the periphery of the story, but they are still real human beings.

Friedman also creates friends for Parker and Danielle who ring true. The girlfriend/boyfriend relationships of the older kids are realistic without being risqué. The reader doesn't get too close to them, but then, neither does Parker. It is an effective way to help the reader feel how isolated Parker and Danielle both feel.

There is a countdown that accompanies each change of narrative. This device shows the passage of time within the story, but also effectively elevates a sense of suspense. As the book begins, the reader is told that Parker's narrative takes place "88 days before." The closer the story gets to that fateful day, the more that Parker and his family fall further apart. His bulimia and anxiety accelerate, Danielle's angst and identity struggle worsens, Mr. Rabinowitz struggles with his own challenging health problems, and Mrs. Rabinowitz struggles to keep it all together. Parker's girlfriend struggles, too, with his ever-increasing emotional distance from her. Yet because the story is so layered with each of these issues, it is impossible to predict just what will happen at the story's climax.

NOTHING grabs you from page one, draws you into the lives of these characters, and does not let go, culminating in a finale that is as satisfying as it is hopeful. It is a beautiful book. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
This story is a gripping portrayal of a life spiraling out of control. Parker's frank tone is coupled with free-verse poems from Danielle's point of view, giving us a complete picture of a family falling apart. Parker doesn't know how to ask for help and Danielle, who would help him, has no idea what's going on. Mom and Dad are clueless, especially when Mr. Rabinowitz becomes ill.

A Looking-for-Alaska-esque countdown starts on the first page with "88 days before" and helps move the action forward. As the countdown crept down to zero, I found myself racing through the pages to find out what was going to happen. Robin Friedman has created characters that I really cared about and I liked that we get two different perspectives. Parker's voice is urgent and raw while Danielle watches from the sidelines, resenting her brother at times, though she doesn't know what he's hiding. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Sep 14, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 073871304X, Paperback)

A 2009 Sydney Taylor Award Notable Books for Teens winner

Bronze Medal winner for the Young Adult Fiction category of ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards

"Sometimes trees can look healthy on the outside, but actually be dying inside. These trees fall unexpectedly during a storm."

For high school senior Parker Rabinowitz, anything less than success is a failure. A dropped extracurricular, a C on a calc quiz, a non-Jewish shiksa girlfriend—one misstep, and his meticulously constructed life splinters and collapses. The countdown to HYP (Harvard, Yale, Princeton) has begun, and he will stay focused.

That's why he has to keep it a secret. The pocketful of breath mints. The weird smell in the bathroom.

He can't tell his achievement-obsessed father. He can't tell his hired college consultant. And he certainly can't tell Julianne, the "vision of hotness" he so desperately wants to love.

Only Parker's little sister Danielle seems to notice that he's withering away. But the thunder of praise surrounding Parker and his accomplishments reduces her voice to broken poetry:

I can't breathe
when my brother's around
because I feel smothered,
blank and faded

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:37 -0400)

Despite his outward image of popular, attractive high-achiever bound for the Ivy League college of his father's dreams, high school senior Parker sees himself as a fat, unattractive failure and finds relief for his overwhelming anxieties in ever-increasing bouts of binging and purging.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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