Title: This Impossible Light
Author: Lily Myers
Published in: 2017
Genres: realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, mental health/mental illness, poetry
“Fifteen-year-old Ivy’s world is in flux. Her dad has moved out, her mother is withdrawn, her brother is off at college, and her best friend, Anna, has grown distant. Worst of all, Ivy’s body won’t stop expanding. She’s getting taller and curvier, with no end in sight. Even her beloved math class offers no clear solution to the imbalanced equation that has become Ivy’s life.
Everything feels off-kilter until a decision to change the way she eats gives her a boost in confidence and reminds Ivy that her life is her own. If she can just limit what she eats—the way her mother seems to—she can stop herself from growing, focus on the upcoming math competition, and reclaim control of her life. But when her disordered eating gives way to missed opportunities and a devastating health scare, Ivy realizes that she must weigh her mother’s issues against her own, and discover what it means to be a part of—and apart from—her family.”
This Impossible Light starts off in the summer before Ivy’s tenth grade year. Her parents have recently divorced, her mother now hides in her room, her brother just left for college, and her best friend is in Paris. Once her friend does come back home, she spends her time with a new friend instead and Ivy feels left out. Not only left out, but alone and lonely. Everything in her life feels uncertain. So it’s a welcome relief for her when the new school year begins. There she knows what to do. She’s a Smart Girl, who gets perfect grades and is perfect student, a perfect daughter. She finds school easy and uses it as her escape from what’s happening at home. She especially loves math because numbers are constant and unchanging.
But underneath the perfect student and daughter she appears to be, Ivy’s secretly insecure. She wishes she could be smaller, like she used to be when she was younger and her family was still whole. She doesn’t want to grow taller, develop curves, or gain weight. Instead, she wants to be more like her mother, who barely eats anything and is stick thin. A few weeks into the school year, she makes the decision to eat less and exercise more. She’ll be a Smart Girl about this too. She’ll reclaim control over her life, at least one aspect of it.
It’s not long, though, before Ivy starts eating next to nothing, exercising past the point of exhaustion, and making herself sick if she does eat anything. Anytime she doesn’t follow the strict rules she set for herself she feels like she’s failed. But when those around her become concerned, she brushes it off and says she’s fine. In her mind, she is fine. Well, she will be, once she reaches her goal. Her insecurities about her weight soon turns into an obsession that takes up all her time, causing her to miss homework assignments and do poorly in school.
On the morning of the math competition she’d been practicing all year for, Ivy goes out for a bike ride like she has on mornings past. But the lack of nutrients and missed sleep catch up to her and cause her to crash. And due to the nature of her fall, she ends up in the hospital, where the doctors inform her parents that she’s at risk for developing an eating disorder.
After that Ivy’s life starts looking up. She begins going to a therapist to help her work through her issues and then a nutritionist to learn how to eat healthy. Her mother starts talking to her again and admits to her own issues, which she’s also getting help for. Her best friend starts hanging out with her like they used to. She catches up on her missed homework assignments and gets back on track.
I don’t have much else to say about this book besides that the ending felt too perfect and unbelievable. It was like a “happily ever after” ending and that none of what happened the past several months had happened in the first place. After the first session with her therapist, Ivy realized that she had an eating disorder and that it was a problem, just like that. While in real life, it can take months, if not years to come to that realization. Not to mention that even with getting help, eating disorders don’t just go away. They can be a lifetime battle, with the struggle to fight the insecure thoughts and the inclination to return to those unhealthy habits always there.
But despite the unrealistic ending, This Impossible Light was a quick and interesting read.
Rating: 4/5 Stars