Characters Giselle Vasco is a 22-year-old student who is in her first year of medical school. Giselle’s the smart one and fairly pretty… maybe. She is a compulsive studier that faces a losing battle with anorexia and blames it on her dead father, who she claims never loved her as much as her younger sister, Holly. Within Giselle’s narrative, she carries on a dialogue with the pessimistic side of herself, her inner demon – which, most likely, is her disease. Giselle comes face to face with her own mortality and is destroying herself while those around her are powerless to stop it and can only watch her slide into oblivion.
Holly is nothing like Giselle. She is the better compensated, 14-year-old junior track star of the family; “the golden child”. She is a tom-boy: gorgeous, competitive and fun, with a strong head on her shoulders who relishes in her strength and appetite. Although she may seem like she has it together, she doesn’t. Being half-deaf and schizophrenic, Holly struggles to get through school as well as understand and avert her sister’s illness. We hear through Holly’s voice how Giselle’s disease affects her and her family. Setting
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While the current setting of the book is in Canada, the secrets of Giselle’s mother’s and father’s past were formed in Hungary. We get the feeling that we’re in a suburb in modern times. The novel takes place at the Vasco house, the local hospital, St. Sebastian junior high, and very often, inside Giselle and Holly’s head. The whole mood and atmosphere of the novel is very uptight and suffocating. At times, the reader may feel hopeful for Giselle but at other times also annoyed. Conflict The conflict in this book is individual vs. self. Giselle is always battling herself.
Her main issues are her struggles with her weight and anorexia as the pessimistic side of her taunts her repeatedly to be thin while pushing her to the brink of insanity. It’s that demonic voice, against her own voice and thoughts, against her sister’s and her mother’s. She also struggles with the rough relationship between her and her father before his death and the story of how her mother cheated on her ex-husband. Giselle constantly struggles with her self-esteem and although her boyfriend always tells her she’s beautiful, the voice from within tells her otherwise.
Giselle also has an identity disorder where one part of her wants to be healthy and understands that she could very well be killing herself. Then there’s the other part of her that urges on starvation. It’s as if these two halves are battling for dominance in her mind and the half that doesn’t want her to eat always wins. The rising action is when Giselle meets Sol. The climax is when Sol cheats on her for Holly, Giselle gets put in the hospital and Holly starts “seeing” ghosts of her father.
The falling action is when Giselle goes missing and is saved by Sol from trying to commit suicide. The resolution is when Giselle dies of endometriosis and Holly runs away from the funeral, screaming, struggling to cope with her sister’s untimely death. Theme The theme of this book is: secrecy between family members should never be kept. Giselle and Holly’s parents are Hungarian immigrants who brought with them many questions and contradictions surrounding their relationship with their coming to Canada.
Giselle spends a great amount of time eagerly searching for answers which might hopefully lead to love and understanding in this dysfunctional family. These questions represent a space beyond her control as her father has died of a heart attack and her mother is unwilling to share her life story. Therefore Giselle searches control in other ways. She searches for sincere relationships not only within her family but in the vast world. Giselle is a living contradiction. At times she feels inferior and inadequate yet at other moments, superior. She longs for closeness yet completely isolates herself.