Empty by K.M. Walton
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: depression, obesity, divorce, bullying
Format read: ARC from S&S via Edelweiss (Thank you!)
Previously read book by K.M. Walton: Cracked
Summary: Dell is kicked off her softball team for continuing to gain too much weight and no longer being able to perform athletically; her best friend, Cara, is distancing herself to get in with the popular crowd and uses Dell to make them laugh.
Adelle (Dell) is an obese girl who has lost everything – her father (to an affair), her softball team (she’s been cut because she can no longer play well due to her continuously increasing weight), her mother (to working too much and having a pill addiction), and is soon to lose her best friend, Cara (to the popular crowd). The only light amidst all the darkness is her baby sister, Meggie, who she helps care for after school, and the food she continues to sneak behind her mother’s back.
Dell is bullied at school and neglected by both parents. No one listens to her or asks how she is. She tries to deflect the ridicule of her peers and join in on the laughter, but inside she’s a girl breaking into a million pieces. She makes self-depricating jokes to make people laugh with her instead of at her, but she continues to turn to food to take the focus away from her pain. Many, many times I just wanted to say Put the food down. Don’t make jokes about yourself. Don’t care what they think. She needed someone to let her guard down with.
Dell has a crush on popular boy, Brandon, and there’s a very awkward (and disturbing) situation that happens with him. This was the point that I began to realize that Dell’s story wasn’t going to be a happy one. With no one to turn to and gossip spreading like wildfire about her, Dell’s downward spiral begins. No one ever takes the time to uncover her side of the story — not even Cara, who chooses to believe what the popular girls say about Dell. (There were bits of this twist in the story that sometimes had me wondering how they could believe the rumors, but I think it’s important to remember that people will believe what they want to hear. And teenagers don’t always make the most logical, sensible decisions.)
Empty is a fast-paced, absorbing story. It was a very difficult read for me because it’s most certainly not about a girl who learns how to cope and seek out help. I feel I must emphasize that this is not a happy story. (If you want a realistic, happy-ending story about an obese girl, read Skinny.) I feel, however, that my expectations for Empty were a bit skewed upon reading the summary of the book, or maybe I assumed this would be about a girl with anorexia or bulemia, but that wasn’t it at all. It’s full of sadness and grief, and ultimately, loss. It’s about being unloved, depression, and the affects of bullying.
K.M. did a phenomenal job tapping into the mind of a very lonely, dejected girl. So many people are facing different forms of bullying each day and we’re allowed to witness the huge risk K.M. takes by showing us the detrimental effects of that on a person’s life.