Dani has been in foster care for as long as she can remember. In an attempt to get help for her anorexia, Dani is signed up to the Daisy Bank Rehab Centre, where she meets Fletcher, a drug addict who has been living on the streets. Dani and Fletcher are soon assigned as buddies, helping each other on their road to recovery. However, when Dani is asked to try to remember her first memory, it all comes flooding back. The empty room she was locked in, a dead body and a stranger. If Dani is to make progress in her recovery, she must figure out who the body was, and why she was locked in a room with it. With Fletcher's help, Dani starts researching into her past. Will Dani be able to deal with the evidence and memories of a shocking and traumatic childhood?
Although I did enjoy the alien metaphor, I felt as if there were too many metaphors in the book in general. Near the start of the book, I got a little confused and took a couple of the metaphors literally, such as thinking that Fletcher had actually punched Dani, when she had meant that his words had felt like a punch. Although after the initial confusion I became aware of what was reality and what was a metaphor, the sheer number of them did annoy me slightly, particularly when Dani would expand the metaphor over a number of pages.
I loved the relationship between Dani and Fletcher! There was no instalove involved, and their relationship didn't turn romantic until about 100 pages into the book. I also loved how the romance was more of a subplot instead of having a huge impact on the story. The relationship progresses in a healthy way, and I loved how they genuinely cared for reach other, and tried to help each other to get better. Something that I hate seeing is characters problems suddenly disappearing once they get a love interest, so I loved how this wasn't the case at all. Seeing someone you love going through something awful and feeling powerless to fix it is a terrible feeling, and I felt as if Fletcher's emotions were portrayed perfectly. I also loved how it showed that sometimes it's ok to walk away from someone who is having a negative impact on your life, and being burdened with someone else's problems along with your own can often be too much to cope with.
I felt as if Dani was quite manipulative at times, so I loved how the other characters stood their ground against her. I also loved the message that sometimes you have to step back from other people's problems so that you can focus on your own, and take steps into helping yourself. Fletcher was so focused on trying to help Dani to get better than he neglected his own issues. I loved how Dani pointed this out to him, and wanted to help him just as much as he wanted to help her.
Although Dani's battle with anorexia is the main storyline, Dani is also trying to remember what triggered her anorexia. This was my favourite part of the book, as we slowly start to find out more about Dani's past, and why she has repressed memories of being locked in a room with a dead body. I loved how Dani started to finally come to terms with what had happened to her, and started allowing herself to start her recovery.
The main thing that annoyed me about this book was the ending! It was extremely ambigious, and although I have come to realise this is a popular thing to do in YA contemporary, it never fails to annoy me. I would much prefer to be told what happened, rather than havng to speculate. I felt as if the book would have benefited from an epilogue in Fletcher's point of view, as I was a little annoyed that we never really got to find out if he ever got off the streets, or if he overcame his drug addiction.
There are some upsetting themes that run through this book, including child abuse, suicide, anorexia and drug abuse. I found Dani's memories and visualisation of her friends suicide to be quite disturbing at times, so it may be a good idea to avoid this book if any of these themes are particularly triggering to you. However, I did feel as if this was an interesting take on anorexia, and I learnt some things about it that I didn't from other books on the subject. I was actually shocked at the content I found from googling Pro Ana and Thinspiration, as there are some extremely harsh posts out there telling young girls not to eat or they will be ugly and fat. I loved how this book showed the repercussions of what happens when young people believe these kinds of posts, such as Dani struggling to climb a set of stairs.
I overall thought this was an important, well written and educational read, and I would love to read more by Sarah Mussi in the future!
Room Empty is now available to purchase!
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