SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL Katie Green's Lighter Than
My Shadow (Lion Forge, 2017) is a powerful memoir of anorexia, disordered eating, and sexual abuse. Green's story takes herself from a child who was a picky eater through repeated bouts with anorexia and rigid eating habits, which are exacerbated by bullying at school and her own low self-esteem. Some of her therapists and doctors are clueless, while others are fooled by her calculated answers. Indeed, Green dupes many of the people around her, but not her readers-she draws her disorder as a black, scribbly cloud that sometimes hangs over her head and consumes her completely. Even when she appears to be doing well, the darkness is often hovering nearby. Finally Green goes to an
“alternative therapist” who encourages her to rebel against her parents, and she begins to feel better, until she realizes that he has been sexually abusing her under the guise of therapy. Tortured by guilt, flashbacks,
and feelings of worthlessness, Green attempts suicide, but when she finally pursues the art career she has always wanted and finds a therapist who understands her feelings, she begins to recover. Anna, the central character in
Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield, contends with anorexia. It should be noted that
Green's depictions of sexual abuse are fairly explicit; nonetheless, she wrote
Lighter Than My Shadow in part for teens. “I would love 17-year-olds to read it,” she said in my interview with her in May 2017. “I don't blame myself for the abuse that happened to me, but I know that if I had a better understanding of what abuse is or looks like, it might have been stopped earlier. If teenagers are reading this kind of story, then hopefully they will understand it better.” Tyranny (Tundra, 2009), by Lesley Fairfield, is another look at the same topic. This fictional story of a young woman with anorexia and bulimia uses a skeletal squiggle to represent the negative thoughts-the “tyranny”-that compel her to try to be thin. Anna, the heroine, struggles with her disorder and relapses before going into a residential treatment facility and finally gets well. Along the way, Fairfield depicts Anna's distorted self-image, comparing her real body to what she sees in the mirror, and brings in other characters to show different aspects of the disorder. Although the subject is very serious-one character dies of the disease-Fairfield's light, cartoony style keeps the book from ever feeling too heavy. (Note: Some nonsexual nudity.) Both of these stories use the graphic medium to reveal the distortions in body image that come with eating disorders-in the case of Tyranny, Fairfield visualizes both the reality of
Anna's body and the inaccurate view she sees in the mirror. In Lighter Than My
Shadow, Green imagines her belly bulging every time she eats. Meanwhile, she also envisions herself getting lighter and disappearing into a wisp of smoke as she loses weight.
JOS WHEDON - It's universal yet specific and those together make such strong medicine. Wow.
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Green looks back at a long struggle with anorexia in this hard-hitting graphic memoir, originally published in the U.K. Childhood fears led Green to develop rituals and routines to feel safe, which began to affect her eating habits (“Chew four times on the left... four times on the right... then two sips of water”). As Green grew into a teenager,
these ritualscombined with her academic rigor and a barrage of offhand comments about her bodyevolved into a focus on control and discipline in her eating, leading to extreme weight loss and professional intervention after she passes out at school. Minimal dialogue and narration keep the focus on
Green’s grayscale artwork, which viscerally reflects how Green saw herself while in the grips of her eating disorder. Her body appears grotesquely distended in some scenes, she imagines slicing her thighs thinner with a cleaver in others; a scribbly black cloud is a constant presence, reflecting the inner voices she can’t escape. As the story moves into Green’s college years and beyond, she finds balance amid many setbacks but never sugarcoats the difficult and ongoing nature of recovery. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
FOREWORD (STARRED) Katie Green's memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow, offers a personal, finely wrought examination of life with an eating disorder, as well as of the repercussions of abuse. Warning signs appear early. Young Katie seems obsessed with perfection, particularly with regard to her body image and tracking what she eats. When the problem manifests itself outwardly and Katie is diagnosed with anorexia, her parents consult an "alternative therapist" who betrays Katie's trust and adds another layer of emotional obstacles for her to overcome. Green's account is revealing, not just in its unguarded disclosures of events in her life but also in its exploration of what takes a smart girl from a supportive family down such a difficult path. Katie is a sympathetic, almost tragic figure as she cycles from one round of "recovery" to another and is nearly undone by the process. Finally, she achieves a delicate balance that allows her to move on with her life as an artist.
Green's drawings capture feelings that her words alone cannot. There's no substitute for the visceral reaction to witnessing the shocking changes in Katie's body or seeing her doubts, fear, and obsessions manifested in the form of a black cloud, or shadow,
that appears throughout the book-sometimes small, sometimes completely enveloping her. Lighter Than My Shadow features some adult content but is insightful and valuable for those of high-school age or even younger. It's a gripping memoir that survivors can relate to, and one that will produce a greater degree of empathy and understanding in those who have little experience with the subject. PETER DABBENE (September/October 2017)
SHELF-AWARENESS The black-and-gray illustrations (with occasional splashes of color) set the tone and mood, depicting the bleakness of living with an eating disorder and the pain of uncovering abuse. The black scribbles are a constant; they stream out of a crevice in her head, they encroach upon her space. They take over one page, then another and another, until there is only darkness. Anyone even remotely familiar with addiction will recognize the immense frustration and weariness with oneself that comes with this processand anyone who reads this book, addiction or no, has no choice but to experience the malaise along with Katie. The outcome is ultimately positiveKatie's recovery steadies and evens out by the end of the workbut Lighter Than My Shadow depicts the road to recovery with extreme precision and care. It is tedious. It is painful. It is triggering. It is frustrating. It is reco
STYLIST MAGAZINE - This is a brave book from an astoundingly talented new voice.
Gr 9 Up—Green chronicles her struggles with an eating disorder. In high school, when her weight dropped dangerously low, she underwent treatment for anorexia; in college, she restricted what she ate and engaged in binge eating. For Green, food was intricately linked to her constant pursuit of perfection; despite high grades, she was rarely satisfied with her achievements. She offers a nuanced exploration of the other factors that contributed to her disorder, such as finicky childhood eating habits, negative and positive comments about her body, and unwanted sexual advances from a predatory self-professed healer. Straightforward text and vivid imagery combine for a powerful, achingly honest memoir. Spare artwork devoid of color other than beige, gray, or sepia backgrounds reflects Green's despair. Controlled linework gives way to arresting, chaotic imagery. A cloud of scribbled black lines, symbolizing Green's ever-present stream of self-criticism, threatens to engulf her. At times her nude body floats through space, whittled down or engorged, or is depicted with the skin flayed, revealing her organs. Green realistically portrays her transformation over time from a rigidly controlled adolescent stymied by fear of failure to a young woman willing to take risks. Though the book ends on an optimistic note, the author emphasizes that recovery is ongoing and that she still combats her anxieties and fears. VERDICT This intimate, unflinching title is an essential addition to graphic novel collections.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal