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on 27 April 2003
I read 'Wasted' in one day, once i had picked it up, it was actually impossible for me to leave it. It is one of those books where opening it at any page offers you compulsive reading, and it is true to say that Hornbacher offers a very frank and blunt view of something that, instrinctly, is very complicated. The book did almost inspire me, however, and i do not believe that her desire to help others and stop them from doing what she did, is fulfiled. Having already suffered from bulemia for a year before reading, i found the book full of new ideas, lies and ways of keeping the lifestyle i had, maintained. This is clearly unintentional, but the descriptions of emotion, power, simplicity, ease and almost the glamourisation of the eating disordered existence, would intrigue even those who had never considered it before. I am certainly not advising anyone to miss out on this book, it is an amazing read, words cannot explain how capturing it is until you actually pick it up, but i am advising people to be careful about what they take from it. My congratualtions do go out to Marya Hornbacher for finding exactly the right words for feelings, actions and emotions for things that only people who suffer like her would understand, and so far, i was unable to find. The connection you can make with what she is saying is formidable, amazing, and shocking in some parts because you really believe your the only one fighting and suffering. Marya Hornbacher shows you brutally how wrong you were. An excellent read.
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You can read many accounts of Eating Disorders, but this one has to be one of the most disturbing, well written and incisive. Marya writes clearly and without self-pity, about the start of her disease, when she is young and bulimic, until the climax of anorexia when she enters into a disturbing account of severe mental illness. She never explains why she got the disease, probably because she can't explain it to herself, but her description of her state of mind and the people around her's reaction to her disease is brilliant. She says she wants to write this book to stop other people going down the same route. I have no doubt she will succeed, because this book is horrific and terrifying. She adds information from supposed experts into the book, and quite often mocks therapists who have no idea about her illness, so together with her honest self-analysis it makes for an educational read. Don't expect any answers or miracle cures however. The quality of her writing is high, and I'm sure any book by her is well worth the read.
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2005
'Wasted' is the first book I have ever come across that approaches the subject of eating disorders with unflinching honesty. Hornbacher's writing style is sharp, intelligent, and caustic. She does not waste time wallowing in self-pity or blaming other people for the development of her eating disorders. She does not attempt to portray herself as a golden-haloed saint who overcame every obstacle. As a result, she appears far less than perfect - and the reader admires her for it. This autobiography has a human face.
It seems as if any recovered anorectic who wants to relive their hell on the page can easily find a publisher these days, simply because the subject material is topical and fascinating and frightening. So it is rare, rare indeed to find an author with Hornbacher's intelligence and her gift for turning it into incisive, lucid prose. As well as being the most brutally honest book on eating disorders, 'Wasted' is easily the most well-written. Other reviewers have accused it of being too triggering, but I loved this aspect of the book - not because I am an anorectic who is desperate for graphic triggers (any anorexic brain can provide those in abundance) but because the narrative reveals the full extent of the destructive anorexic obsession. Yes, it is an obsession, and not one that should be side-stepped in sugar-coated prose. If you are 'interested' in the world of eating disorders and choose to subsist off a diet of that type of book, fine - just don't expect to ever learn what it is really like. As I am a psychology student with an exam paper to complete on the subject of eating disorders, Marya's insights were invaluable to me - she interweaves her story with useful accounts of psychological studies into anorexia.
The only fault I have to find with 'Wasted' is the lack of dialogue. The reader has to rely too heavily on Marya's assessment of people's behaviour. Some people, like Julian, remain mystery shadows that we cannot penetrate. If she had included more snippets of conversation, the people who populate the book's pages might have been brought to life. However, perhaps this was intentional - it certainly shows the reader how painfully lonely a life with anorexia can be...
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on 7 November 2006
There really is no need for me to describe the contents of this brilliant book as it has already been done very well by the reviewers before me, but I do think that even though it's been almost 10 years since publication, this book is still as relevent now (if not more so) than when it was written.

There seems so be a disturbing trend at the moment for people in the public eye to 'confess' to have suffered from eating disorders at one time or another, making it sound as though an E.D. is almost a fashion statement. Not only does this help in trivialising what can often be a fatal illness, but makes it seem somehow glamorous.

Believe me, there's nothing glamorous about destroying your body and slowly killing yourself. And 'Wasted' illustrated this perfectly, describing just how awful a full-blown E.D. really is. It describes how an eating disorder isn't something to play around with, something to 'try out for a few days', it isn't a 'diet that's gone a bit overboard', a weightloss plan. What it is though, is something which controls your entire body and mind- and it's scary.

And if you have no interest in eating disorders? Well you should read this book anyway as it is probably the best piece of writing I have ever read.

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on 23 September 2003
Having a fascination with body dysphoria and cultural clashes of all sorts that are fought on internal terrain, I totally loved 'Wasted.' A deeply revealing book about Hornbacher's pain, lies, family discord, messy bodily functions and lost years, 'Wasted' holds the interest of those into voyeuristic despair, much as 'Prozac Nation' did for me.
But it's not just some dreary recovery tome. Hornbacher does not pull her punches about the vomiting, the starving, the mental breakdowns and the twisted relationships she grapples with. You really feel like you're there. Also, her research is extensive. I particularly found useful her use of common psychological and psychoanalytic approaches to eating disorders. She critiques anorexia/bulimia myths, medical responses to these disorders and assumptions the 'average person' makes about eating disorders, without losing her subjective voice. This is an incredible achievement.
I have to admit I have become rather fixated by the book. I dip in and out of it. I am myself a bit overweight and don't relate to the eating disorder lifestyle personally, but what it draws out in me is the personal experience of the cultural struggles women face, written large on our bodies.
It's a must. Truly.
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on 27 December 2006
For anyone who has ever had an eating disorder and for anyone who has not this is one of theose books that is compleatly essential. I read it shortly before I was admitted into an eating disorders clinic. I was extremely ill. Yet despite that fact it really struck hard with me. I would recommend it to anyone that would ever say that an eating disorder is not a serious psychiatric condition. Hornbacher level of self destruction was what I really identified. she was determined to kill herself, it is the most brutally honest book on eating disorders that I have ever read.
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on 13 February 2007
Are there any words to describe the accuracy and factuality of this book?

As an ex-anorectic myself, I have had to start reading this book many times before plucking up the courage to read it all. It is so painfully true, and so down to earth, that I sometimes felt as though Hornbacher was writing MY biography. Unlike most other eating disorder memoirs, this book isn't an attempt at portraying eating disorders as a glamorous phase, or textbook condition. It presents to the reader the harsh day-to-day reality that anorexic people (and their close friends or relatives) are faced with both during and after the disorder while also giving truthful insight into what goes on in an anorectic's mind. The conflict, pain, satisfaction, despair, loneliness, anguish, and liberation.....all beautifully summed up in 289 pages of well-crafted modern literature.
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on 12 March 2006
Ive just finished this book and it shocked me how well the Hornbacher decribes eating disorders. I have suffered with a combination of bulimia and to a lesser extent, anorexia for years. There is no other way to say what it does to you except to say that eating disorders are soul destroying. There are days when I want to curl up and die because I know that there is no easy way out but this book shows that however ill you can become, you can also get through. Wasted is a shockingly honest book. Some may say that Hornbacher is almost encouraging readers to toy with the idea of extreme dieting, but I disagree. She is telling the way it really is. Yes, she was an extreme case but it happens and it is terrifying. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the thought process behind bulimia and anorexia. If you have an eating disorder and want a trigger book or some sort of motivation, dont bother. You wont find it here.
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on 30 March 1999
Marya Hornbacher's life has been dominated by the devastating diseases of anorexia and bulimia, which have played havoc with her socially, educationally, and emotionally. She describes her numerous hospitalisations, her complicated family dynamics, her even more intense and complex relationship to food (and drugs), and as she charts her descent into anorexia, she manages to keep sufficiently detached to ask big questions of our society and how it comes to nuture such a burgeoning army of anorectics. Marya may not have completed a college degree, but she's smarter than most health professionals who deal with the ravages of anorexia, and she has a steely wit to match. In fact, the author is so clever and writes so well, that I ended up wondering how someone with this much insight into her condition could self-destruct in so many ways for so long. That in itself ultimately demonstrates the terrible, addictive, and insidious nature of eating disorders and how they can grip hold of the best and the brightest and bring them to their knees. Hornbacher's not quite off her knees yet, but she's yelling at us to listen to what she's got to say in the meantime. She's impossible to ignore from the first page to the last.
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on 5 April 2007
I bought this book just before I started work in an Eating Disorders Unit as an attempt to gain a more subjective view of suffering with an eating disorder, outside of the clinical information that seemed to ignore the emotional aspects of the disease. I was so absorbed in Marya's story of this debilitating addiction that I read it in one night. I have since read it twice more and still do not stop aching from the horror of what she went through. The fact that even now she is still struggling to just cope with 'living' with the disease day by day and not having some fairytale ending is heartbreaking. My job was working in the community with a set of twins who had suffered from the disease for over 35 years, from the age of 13. There is no turning back for these women, although it breaks my heart to say it - my job has just been no more than keeping them alive despite every attempt by them to sabotage my efforts. One day their frail bodies that at their best hover above a BMI of 15 will give in. I just hope that anyone suffering from an eating disorder can just take Marya's story and realise that it is real and it's killing you.
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