Book Review: Believarexic by J.J. Johnson



Title: Believarexic
Author: J.J. Johnson
Published in: 2015
Pages: 464
Genres: realistic fiction, mental health/mental illness, poetry


“Fifteen-year-old Jennifer has to force her family to admit she needs help for her eating disorder. But when her parents sign her into the Samuel Tuke Center, she knows it’s a terrible mistake. The facility’s locked doors, cynical nurses, and punitive rules are a far cry from the peaceful, supportive environment she’d imagined.

In order to be discharged, Jennifer must make her way through the strict treatment program—as well as harrowing accusations, confusing half-truths, and startling insights. She is forced to examine her relationships, both inside and outside the hospital. She must relearn who to trust, and decide for herself what “healthy” really means.

Punctuated by dark humor, gritty realism, and profound moments of self-discovery, Believarexic is a stereotype-defying exploration of belief and human connection.”

-from Goodreads

My Review

When she was 15, Jennifer Johnson had an eating disorder and had to convince her parents she needed help for her bulimarexia, a combination of bulimia and anorexia. In 1988, she convinced them to admit her into the EDU (Eating Disorders Unit) of Samuel Tuke Center to get that help. Once she got there, though, she realized that is wasn’t anything like she’d thought it would be. Instead of being able to rest and recover in warm and supportive environment, the hospital had locked doors, mean and untrusting nurses, and strict rules. In order to leave, Jennifer had to work the program to get better. In this process, she had to confront her problems and learned many things about herself and others. Jennifer was very committed to recovery and eventually recovered from her eating disorder.

Believarexic is an autobiographical novel based on J.J. Johnson’s own struggle with bulimarexia when she was 15. She did actually go into a psychiatric hospital for 10 weeks in the winter of 1988-1989 for treatment of her eating disorder. J.J. Johnson has posted her actual journal from when she was in the hospital on along with other bonus material.

Jennifer was a very realistic character and was a very realistic portrayal of someone with anorexia/bulimia. Like I said, the novel was based on the author’s own experience, so you would expect it to be realistic. She wanted recovery and worked hard at it until she made her way through the program. That’s not to say there weren’t problems along the way. There were. But she was able to work through them. Jennifer also had some other problems in addition to her eating disorder. She was also an alcoholic, had depression and anxiety, was a perfectionist, and had cut herself before. But these problems were also addressed in her therapy sessions and worked through.

The plot of Believarexic was about Jennifer getting treatment for her eating disorder. It never mentioned her weight or her methods used in her bulimia/anorexia. The author said she excluded these things to keep them from being triggers. The book doesn’t talk too much about how her eating disorder started or what happened specifically leading to this point. In the novel, Jennifer had to write a history of her eating disorder, but essay itself was not in the book. Instead Believarexic primarily focused on Jennifer’s recovery and  facing her problems and learning how to deal with those problems.

Since Believarexic is an autobiographical novel, I wasn’t sure what parts were true and what parts were made up for the novel. Like I said, the author has posted her real journal online. She says you can read it and compare real life versus the novel. But some things were never mentioned in her real journal that were in the book. I’m not sure if it’s because they didn’t really happen or because she didn’t write them down at the time. Either way, this left me curious about several things. But overall, it was an interesting novel and I enjoyed reading it.

I absolutely loved Believarexic. It  was a great book about eating disorders and would recommend it to anyone looking for a book about mental health, eating disorders, or realistic fiction.

Rating: 5/5 Stars


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