“Running Lean” by Diana L. Sharples Book Review: A Must-Read Young Adult Fictional Novel with Eating Disorder Struggles

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What Is It
Written by Diana L. Sharples, “Running Lean” is a Young Adult novel that follows Stacey and Calvin throughout a trying time in both of their lives. As Calvin is trying to cope with his older, military brother’s recent death, something seems wrong with his passionate girlfriend, Stacey. Partnered with Stacey’s best friend who seems to be harboring secrets and encouraging bad behaviors, Calvin is becoming more and more concerned while Stacey seems to be withering away in front of his eyes.

The official book description says:

Equilibrium. That’s what Stacey and Calvin found in each other. He is as solid as his beloved vintage motorcycle and helps quiet the constant clamor in Stacey’s mind. She is a passionate, creative spirit—and a lifeline after Calvin’s soldier brother dies.

But lately the balance is off. Calvin’s grief is taking new forms. Voices of self-loathing are dominating Stacey’s life. When struggles with body image threaten her health, Calvin can’t bear to lose another person that he loves. Taking action may destroy their relationship, but the alternative could be much more costly.

It’s worth noting that this book does have a religious/Christian slant to it. Those of that religion will welcome it while those who aren’t really won’t find themselves too bothered by it. It’s relatively minor in the book, but it is present.

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My Opinion
Diana L. Sharples has done an amazing job with this book. She’s done such an amazing job that I honestly will have to consider this one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long, long time. No only does she portray the intensity of a teenage relationship with ease, but her portrayal of an eating disorder, how it develops, and how it effects those around the person are insanely accurate as well.

The book really focuses around Stacey’s developing eating disorder. However, Sharples didn’t let that stop her from developing the characters. While the secondary characters are pretty “static” with their personalities, you see as the other characters interact with one another. For example, you’ll see Calvin’s concern and worry as Stacey starts acting even worse. You’ll see Stacey’s desperation as her eating disorder makes her even more self-conscious and she starts to cling even harder to Calvin. The book could have had more character development by starting off before Stacey began down the path of her eating disorder, but it still works out fine the way it is.

For those who aren’t religious, the book is still an amazing read. There will be moments where it kinda seems like the characters just stop what they’re doing and pray, but like many books, it just can be considered a character trait and the character’s religious beliefs. The fact that it does have a slight bit of religion in it shouldn’t be an issue; the majority of the book doesn’t have the religious overtones that can be off-putting about many religious-type fiction stories. This one does a great job of including the character’s beliefs without going overboard to the point where non-religious people can’t enjoy it.

The character’s beliefs shape their actions as well. For example, I think Stacey and Calvin’s relationship would have been more sexual if they both weren’t highly religious characters. That doesn’t stop them from being tempted, but at the same time, they both recognize when they’ve gone too far and they get themselves back on track. Despite the temptations, the book is still easily PG-13 in terms of sexual content. The eating disorder discussions might move the book into “Teen” territory, but the small amount of sexual temptation is no reason to keep a teenager from reading it. If anything, it’s a reason to LET a teenager read it because the author showcases how two teenagers can have an intense, romantic relationship without making it sexual.

I really just ended up being extremely impressed with “Running Lean”. It really is a Young Adult book that gets it right – there’s enough immaturity in the characters while they try to be mature to make it really remind me of being a teenager. It doesn’t try to pretend that they aren’t overly-obsessed about one another. Instead, in teenage fashion, they lean on each other too much. It really takes the usual experience of being a teenager and it adds on the experience of an eating disorder – and it does it with complete believability. As an adult, you might find yourself completely frustrated by the two teenager’s lack of accountability or the parent’s completely blindness to their daughter’s eating disorder, but those are actually pretty realistic and standard things for teenager’s with an eating problem. Really, the book tackles everything perfectly and with believability.

Pros
Running Lean” is an extraordinary read. Along with being impossible to put down, it really is written in a way that’s extremely realistic – including the invinsible feeling that tends to be standard with teenagers. The author did a fantastic job, and it’s one of those books that instantly gets to be considered one of my favorites.

Cons
This book does discuss eating disorders. While it’s appropriate for younger children, you may want to sit down and discuss their behaviors after your child is finished with the book. To make this simple, the book actually includes simple discussion questions at the back of the book to facilitate important family discussions.

Recommended
I highly, highly recommend this. Whether you just love Young Adult books, are interested in how eating disorders affect people’s lives, or just want a heart-warming story about how two people came together to overcome a disorder that has killed many people, I definitely recommend this book. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend it is if you think you’ll be annoyed by the very realistic teenager immaturity that’s portrayed in the book.

Buy It
You can purchase “Running Lean” at any place where books are sold.

I review for BookSneeze®

Comments

  1. It sounds like this book was written “tastefully” – especially when teenage girls have enough to deal with – like their hormones going amuck at this delicate time. It also sounds encouraging – I myself would like to read it.

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