The Stone Girl

( 4 )


She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that's why it doesn't hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn't hurt, because she's not real anymore.

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her ...

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The Stone Girl

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She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that's why it doesn't hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn't hurt, because she's not real anymore.

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.
Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.
From critically acclaimed writer Alyssa B. Sheinmel comes an unflinching and unparalleled portrayal of one girl’s withdrawal, until she is sinking like a stone into her own illness, her own loneliness—her own self.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review, August 23, 2012:
"Sheinmel proves there’s a lot more to an eating disorder than food, or the lack thereof."

Publishers Weekly, August 20, 2012:
"This drama about a girl on the road to anorexia offers candid insights into the psychological factors underlying the condition. ...Sheinmel's depiction of her self-defeating behavior comes across as vivid and painfully truthful."

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2012:
"Vividly depicted."

School Library Journal (online), January 8, 2013:
"Sethie’s plight will resonate not only with teens who have dealt with eating disorders but with any reader who has felt the unyielding pressure to conform to a just out-of-reach ideal."

Publishers Weekly
Despite some predictable elements, this drama about a girl on the road to anorexia offers candid insights into the psychological factors underlying the condition. Seventeen-year-old Sethie Weiss, a student at an elite girls' school in Manhattan, is entangled in a destructive relationship with a boy who treats her callously. Simultaneously, Sethie becomes increasingly obsessed with her weight, wishing she could look more like her new friend, Janey. What follows is an account of Sethie's regimented eating habits, her flirtation with cutting, her experimentation with drugs, and her inevitable breakup with the boy she thinks she loves. As Sethie eats less, she becomes more reclusive, isolating herself from those who care about her: Ben, a big-brother figure who shares her passion for literature; Janey, who continues to call Sethie a friend; and Sethie's mother, who remains silently concerned about her daughter. Sethie's redeeming characteristics are overshadowed by her fixations, with the third-person narration giving her voice an authentic, detached quality. Regardless of Sethie's distance from readers, Sheinmel's depiction of her self-defeating behavior comes across as vivid and painfully truthful. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Bonita Herold
Seventeen-year-old Sethie strives for perfect grades, perfect SAT scores, and the love of Shaw—in her eyes, the perfect boy. When she comes to the conclusion that her body is, at 134 pounds, anything but perfect, she begins to work on it, just like she does with everything else. Through sheer determination—colored by anorexia and bulimia—she eventually brings her weight down to 111 pounds. Anything above that weight makes her feel fat and anything below is—well, not quite enough. With a mother who gives her free rein and a boyfriend who seems to like pot more than her, Sethie sinks like a stone into loneliness, withdrawing into her illness. When Leavitt provides Sethie with a blade, it seems the author is determined to cover the gamut of problems that could arise from self-doubt. While Sethie's character seems painfully real at times, at the end readers are left without understanding the reasons behind Sethie's anorexia. More digestible reads are Sarah Dessen's Just Listen and Keeping the Moon, which include the topic of weight obsession without dwelling on it to the exclusion of everything else. The Stone Girl may appeal to girls with eating disorders, but the obsession Sethie has with food makes for tedious reading. Unfortunately, Sheinmel also seems to provide step-by-step instructions on how to keep off weight in the most deadly way possible. Reviewer: Bonita Herold
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Sethie, a driven, type-A personality who desperately cares what people think about her and is never satisfied with her rapidly shrinking body, is spiraling into a catacomb of eating disorders and cutting. When she finds out that the guy she thought was her boyfriend is only using her for sex and drugs, she goes into further decline. The author's constant referral to her in the third person is rather jarring at times. Sheinmel depicts the common control and textural issues prevalent among many anorexics in a stark and chilling manner; Sethie relishes the feeling of the hard floor underneath her butt and has an exacting ritual of chugging cold water before bedtime. Although Sheinmel indicts the health-care industry and memoirs by anorexics for inadvertently providing tips for anorexics, she explains Sethie's starvation rituals in meticulous detail. However, in an age of "thinspiration" websites, this is probably a moot point, and the details show the ugliness and heartbreaking aspects of anorexia/bulimia. Sethie receives little intervention from her mother or school officials until the end of the novel, for which there is no explanation. The novel is a bit disjointed at times, but it is still a compelling take on a common theme in young adult literature.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Sethie, seriously conflicted by the challenge of navigating the uncertainties of a not-quite-relationship with Shaw, develops anorexia. Previously an excellent, responsible student, Sethie, a senior, tries to live up to indifferent Shaw's expectations for a good-time girl, always available for quick sex and willing to share his abundant pot stash and booze. Never completely addressing these soul-subverting issues--all seemingly in sharp contrast to her previous behavior--Sethie instead begins to associate her self-worth and value to Shaw with her weight. New best friend Janey helpfully offers her bulimia tips but is less than honest about Shaw and his ultimate lack of interest in and respect for Sethie. Third-person, present-tense narration adds an additional level of edginess to this already disturbing tale of self-loathing--and eventually even self-mutilation, as Sethie, spiraling ever downward, dabbles in cutting as well. Adults around her, including her mother, seem nearly unaware of her drinking/drug use/anorexia until a too-easy conclusion brings a hopeful resolution--undermining the potential impact. While Sethie's negative behavior and disturbing mental landscape are vividly depicted, it's less obvious how she became so deeply afflicted, information that might provide readers with a helpful warning. Never an easy read with its unrelenting depiction of Sethie's pain and adult inattentiveness, this effort provides some insight but little assistance with an important and challenging topic. (Fiction. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375970801
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.95 (w) x 8.49 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

ALYSSA B. SHEINMEL is the author of two previous novels, The Beautiful Between and The Lucky Kind. She grew up in Northern California and New York, and attended Barnard College. Alyssa lives and writes in New York City. You can visit her on the Web at

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Read an Excerpt


It is September in New York City and Sarah Beth Weiss has just turned seventeen. For as long as she can remember, she has been called Sethie; her parents, her grandparents, even cousins and uncles who barely know her name at all, know that she is called Sethie. Only new teachers get it wrong. At school, when they go through roll call, Sethie has always had to interrupt to explain. It happened just today, the first day of her senior year. She thought all the teachers at her small school would know her real name by now. But there was a new math teacher today. It wasn't his fault, and Sethie knows it, but she was angry at him. She was frustrated that he made her explain about her name. She felt bad, later, for having been angry.

Sethie is rushing. She goes to an all-girls school, the Franklin White School, or the White School, or White for short, a name whose irony—or complete lack thereof—is lost on none of the homogenous student body. School has ended for the day, and all Sethie can think about is the boy, the boy, the boy. All summer long, she didn't have to wait until three-fifteen to see him, and now she can't remember how she managed before. And she remembers waiting even longer, last year, when she had yearbook editorial meetings that lasted past five, or appointments with her SAT tutor at the coffee shop after school.

Shaw, Shaw, Shaw. She sings it to herself, rushing, like a horse being taunted with a carrot on a stick—must get that carrot, must go faster, must get to Shaw.

There are two things that are true about Sethie: one is that she is always hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly; the other is that she is always missing Shaw.

When Shaw says her name, Sethie feels it on her skin. Her name sounds serious coming out of his mouth, in his deep voice, a voice that belongs somewhere else—in an opera house, on a film screen, coming out of the radio. A voice that deserves to be anywhere but on her bedroom floor, actually speaking to her, paying attention to her, saying her name. Giving her name heft it never had before.

Shaw, Shaw, Shaw. The name that feels like it never finishes, like it's missing a letter at the end. She knows that he can't have missed her all day, not the way she has missed him. Shaw would never be bothered with missing anyone. Shaw doesn't believe in relying on someone else for his own happiness. Shaw's friends were mostly away all summer; he probably actually enjoyed his first day back at school, probably enjoyed seeing all of those other people, getting new books, pressing freshly sharpened pencils into loose-leaf paper.

Sethie knows Shaw's pencils are freshly sharpened, because last night she cleaned out his school bag. Shaw was in the shower, and she threw away all his chewed-up and worn-down pencils and replaced them with fresh ones of her own. A surprise for his first day back.

Sethie has approached this whole day with speed, rushing from class to class, running up and down the stairs, watching the clock, willing it to be eighth period. The other girls walked slowly between classes, catching up, complaining about this or that teacher, agonizing over college applications. Sethie arrived to each class early, turned to the first page of her notebook, and pressed her pen to the top of the page, ready to get on with things. Her classmates sat in the senior lounge; they'd waited years for that lounge, long and skinny, with doors to close the teachers out. It's very small; Sethie thinks that at another school, it might be too small to fit the entire senior class inside it. But all the girls at Sethie's school are skinny. Since most of the girls have been there since kindergarten, Sethie imagines the application process. No overly-sturdy-looking four-year-olds would have been considered.

The most exciting thing about the senior lounge is that it has a pay phone in it. All the girls have been waiting for it since they began attending White and were faced with the faculty's rigid no-cell-phone policy. Sethie remembers what a big deal it was when she was ten years old and her mother finally let her have a cell phone; having the pay phone in the senior lounge seems just as exciting. Sethie still has that same cell phone, in a box under her bed. Sometimes she recharges it and looks at the old text messages she and her friends sent each other in fifth grade. Today, Sethie's classmates all called the boys they like at other schools to give them the number to the senior lounge. The phone rang all day. Sethie has decided she won't give Shaw the number. That way it won't bother her when he doesn't call.

Sethie knows that for all of her rushing today, all of her running from class to class, Shaw has been strolling. Shaw takes his time. Shaw does not rush.

It's one of the things Sethie likes about him. He never worries about being late; he gets to the places he's going when he's ready to be there, and so it's always the right time. She would love to feel that kind of calm, would love to crawl up inside him for a day and feel what it's like to be inside that body: so assured, so smooth, so taut, so lean, and so slow. Shaw doesn't have to rush for her, after all—she does enough rushing for the both of them.

When Sethie finally sees him, Shaw isn't waiting for her. He's on the corner with his friends, but he's not waiting. Had they discussed that she would meet him after school? She thought they had, but now he looks so surprised to see her that she thinks maybe not; maybe she just decided she would come here, and now she's just lucky that Shaw is here.

"Hey, kiddo," he says, and she stands next to him. He does not kiss her hello. He does not put an arm around her. To show she is his, she takes his cigarette from him, and takes a long drag from it.

Shaw's school, Houseman Prep, is coed, so the circle on the corner of the block in which Sethie stands with Shaw includes girls and boys, not just girls, like the corners outside Sethie's school. All the different schools uptown are really just like one big school laid out on an enormous campus. It wouldn't even qualify as an enormous campus. Sethie bets there are some real campuses that are even bigger. In California, maybe, or in Europe.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Gritty and realistic novel about eating disorders

    Sethie is obsessed about her weight and her body, and it comes across in this powerful novel about body image, eating disorders and friendship.
    This hit home on a personal level because I dealt with eating disorders in high school and to this day I still struggle with body image. I think that Sethie's attitudes towards food and how she saw herself was very realistic.
    I really liked Ben in this book, and I respected his mannerisms towards Sethie. I think that he was all that she needed even when she didn't get what she wanted. On the other hand, Shaw irritated me so badly, I just wanted to smack some sense into him. That said, I think that he is like so many guys out there, and I don't at all blame Sethie for seeing what she wanted to in their relationship.
    The friendship element of this story also kept me glued to the pages. Jane is the type of friend that someone struggling needs. I admit, she did help along the eating disorder without really realizing how deep Sethie was, and later admits that she was only trying to impress her. How she kept calling and kept making the effort with Sethie really impressed me and I wish that I had someone like that in my corner when I was dealing with eds. It wasn't perfect, we also saw them hurting one another, mistrust, and other issues, but ultimately it came down to a nice friendship.
    The only thing that I wished was that it was written in first person, because I didn't feel quite as connected to Sethie as I wanted to, and I think that if it weren't in third person, that would have been achieved. Don't get me wrong, I still felt for her and I think the emotion and the obsession definitely came through, I just think it could've been a bit stronger.
    NOTE: Not only does this novel deal with eating disorders, it also has drug use, sex, and language. I recommend to mature teens or adults.
    Bottom Line: Gritty and realistic novel about eating disorders that I wish was in 1st person to make even more powerful.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Sethie is a straight-A student who has sex with a young man whom

    Sethie is a straight-A student who has sex with a young man whom she thinks of as her boyfriend despite the fact that he barely acknowledges her as anything other than an acquaintance, addressing Sethie as "Hey, kiddo."  Her self-esteem is very low and as she strives to lower her body weight, few people seem to notice.  One friend shows Sethie how to purge herself; others supply her with drugs.  Told third-person, this story doesn't always flow well but it will touch most readers with the pain Sethie feels.  It was a quick read which showed the supreme struggle Sethie made every day to take control of her eating disorder and of her life.  Because of the sexual and drug content, it would be most appropriate for readers age 15+.

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    Posted December 17, 2014

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    Posted September 25, 2012

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