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Book Review: Binge by Anne Pfeffer

Twenty-seven-year-old Sabrina “Bree” Hunter has just been given the chance of a lifetime. Her dream of being a published author is finally within her grasp. After years of working as the executive assistant of Josh Newman, a very demanding B-list talent agent in Los Angeles, Bree has been offered a publishing deal from Fast Track Books. She should be ecstatic, thrilled that her life is finally where she has wished it to be since her graduation from Dartmouth. However, Bree has a problem that isn’t easily fixed. Her publisher expects the skinny beauty on her webpage, a  picture taken many years previously, and since the days of the photo, Bree has become a compulsive eater. Every moment of her day is spent obsessing over junk food. Bree turns to food to comfort her, console her, and bring her joy, and her addiction has caused her to gain forty pounds since college. Finding dieting on her own harder than she expected, Bree agrees to attend a support group meeting at the insistence of her sister, Lena, whose boyfriend has recently found success in breaking his addiction to drugs and alcohol, but Bree just isn’t sure the sharing and belief in a higher power are for her–until she meets Daniel. A successful lawyer and recovering overeater, Daniel is a hunk with blue eyes, right off the pages of her own novel. With a three-month deadline looming, an unappreciative boss, and her own doubts, Bree must find a way to overcome her compulsion if she ever hopes to have the life she’s always wanted. 

Sabrina’s addiction provides amazing insight into an area most people ignore. Compulsive eating is as much an eating disorder as bulimia or anorexia; however, many choose to see it as a choice rather than a real issue. That is the case with Bree. Even Bree herself has a difficult time properly naming her overeating what it truly is–an addiction. The depiction of her compulsion will be a revelation for most readers. From hiding food in her desk to digging in the ladies’ room trash for candy, Bree is clearly an addict. The similarity between her behavior and that of a drug addict is both astounding and sad. Bree cannot see that her love of comfort foods is really a user on a bender. The extremity of the disorder will be poignant for the reader, especially if the idea of the compulsion is new to him or her. The burden of secrecy becomes overwhelming, crushing Bree’s spirit and her willpower at times. Her need to diet on a deadline only serves to enhance her cravings and creates a time crunch sensation that will cause similar feelings within the reader, that idea of an inevitable disaster with an impending, unavoidable culmination. Setting the novel in a place where image is king and only the skinny succeed, highlights Bree’s struggle. Bree sinks to shocking depths to fulfill her urges, and she must hit that metaphorical bottom before she can admit her addiction and begin to climb away from it. Readers will celebrate with her as she finds her true self in the land of Hollywood fakes. 

The reasons behind Bree’s addiction become a huge part of her story, her growth into a confident, accomplished woman. Bree began associating comfort with food when her mother left Lena and her with their absentee father. At only nine years old, Bree was both mother and father to her baby sister, cowering beneath the bed when their father wasn’t home and waiting hungrily for him to bring home food for them after he finally left work. Lena became both sister and pseudo daughter to Bree, who continues to bail her out even at the age of twenty-three. Bree has been Lena’s champion for so long, she has forgotten that she is not a middle-age mom. She has lost her vibrancy and her confidence, cowering behind her love for and addiction to sweets. Though she is the more accomplished sibling, Bree can only see her sister’s slimness, her perfect ease, in comparison to Bree’s own self-labeled corpulent incompetency. She is willing to do anything, even considering bulimia and fasting, to achieve the same perfection in herself, thinking her life will suddenly be perfect if her body is. She knows her weight is the cause of her doubt and unhappiness, but she cannot overcome it alone. Through the insistence of the sister who is overcoming her own issue, Bree attends a support meeting and begins the program that will change more than the numbers on the scale. When she meets Daniel, she has a hard time believing someone like him could like someone like her. However, spending time with him and the other members of her group soon empowers Bree, and as the novel progresses, Bree’s recognition of the imperfection of others begins her metamorphosis. She learns that even those people who have seemingly flawless lives are far from that ideal. She stops bullying herself and being her own worst enemy. Eventually, she fully sees the wasted time she has devoted to her pursuit of the unattainable and finds satisfaction in who she is and the potential her REAL life holds. 

This review was written for Chanticleer Reviews.