Heather Topham Wood
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Kayla Marlowe is slowly vanishing…
Last year, Kayla’s world imploded. Her beloved father died, leaving her alone with a narcissistic mother who is quick to criticize her daughter’s appearance. During her winter break from college, Kayla’s dangerous obsession with losing weight begins.
Kayla feels like her world changes for the better overnight. Being skinny seems to be the key to the happiness she has desperately been seeking. Her mother and friends shower her with compliments, telling her how fantastic she looks. Kayla is starving, but no one knows it.
Cameron Bennett explodes into Kayla’s life. He’s sexy and kind—he has every quality she has been looking for in a guy. As Cameron grows closer to Kayla and learns of how far she’s willing to go to stay thin, he becomes desperate to save her.
Kayla’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia reach a breaking point and she is forced to confront her body image issues in order to survive. She wonders if Cameron could be the one to help heal her from the pain of her past.
New Adult Contemporary-Ages 17+ due to language and sexual situations.
Young girls certainly do not have it easy. I mean, they’re hormonal, they’re trying to fit in, they have to worry about their bodies, and they can sometimes be very mean to each other if they don’t conform to societal norms.
Throw in eating disorders and really, it’s a wonder we girls ever make it past twenty. Seriously.
The Disappearing Girl is Kayla. She has it rough for a while now. Her father died and he was basically the glue that held her little family together. Her mother, although she has her faults, was deeply in love with her husband and she mourns him in a way that makes no sense to her impressionable young daughters. Maybe knowingly, maybe not, it doesn’t matter – Kayla’s mother jabs her in just the right way, one last time, and things begin to slip. She stops eating.
At first it might have been a diet, but I’m not sure. Kayla goes for starvation pretty quick and once she begins to see results, it’s like being addicted to a drug. I’m sure it is actually, the brain make neurotransmitters that affect how we feel and eating is directly tied to them. Eating acts like a drug. It stand to reason that not-eating also acts like a drug, and this is what happens to girls with eating disorders. Hell, I only have to look at my teen son when he’s hungry to know how much food affects moods.
Kayla succumbs to every bit of this. She stops eating, then she binges, and then she purges. It’s a vicious cycle – it’s like an addiction that feed upon itself.
This story is a brutally honest look at what self-image has become in the US. Probably some other countries too, but it’s really bad here. Heather’s writing is impeccable, when you pick up her books, you know the story is well-written. I knew that from the first book I reviewed for her, First Visions. Her writing is smooth, she has a terrific author voice, and the stories compel you to keep going because they are effortless to read. This book is no exception.
I really enjoyed this story, even though it’s a little bit sad and scary to think of people doing this to themselves, it has a positive message and Kayla, while desperate to fight against those who want to help her, is a strong character that is not stupid. Despite the fact that she’s making some very bad decisions, she’s intelligent and well crafted.
The romance in this book was sweet and Cameron was definitely a keeper! He cared about Kayla, he confronted her when he figured out what was going on, and he never gave up on her.
One thing that really disturbed me was the online message board which encouraged girls with eating disorders to keep at it, to refuse help, and to dismiss the reaction of friends and family by labeling it jealousy. I didn’t look it up because I wouldn’t be able to stomach actually finding such a message board, but I have no doubt they exist.
This story also details the incremental steps that Kayla took to actually starve herself into sickness. Losing this much weight actually requires a lot of dedication and willpower, and there are many signals that friends and family can look out for if they have suspicions.
All in all, I loved this book. It tackled a tough subject, had a positive message, and characters that cared for Kayla and helped her with a very serious problem.
Heather graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and holds a bachelor’s degree in English. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA Today, Livestrong.com, Outlook by the Bay and Step in Style magazine. She resides in Trenton, New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Besides writing, Heather is a pop culture fanatic and has an obsession with supernatural novels and TV shows.