Reviewed by: Helen Kubiw
For Saskatoon teen Rayanne Timko, her eating disorder began with a Phys Ed class fitness goal of healthy eating and improved exercise regime to get a good grade to match those of her academic subjects. But the recording of all foods and monitoring her physical appearance became a ritual she couldn’t let go, ever hopeful of finding “the person who she wanted to be…hiding somewhere underneath.” (pg. 9).
Now a high school senior, Ray’s life is a complex existence of school counselling sessions, community service at a dog shelter, crushing on Josh Reid who’d witnessed her purging at a party, and convoluted family dynamics with a twin sister, an angry father, a conflicted mother and an impending family wedding that requires her dreading her participation as a bridesmaid. And I haven’t even mentioned the voice of her judgemental thinner self Edie for whom Rayanne never seems to be good enough.
But even with a referral to an eating disorder specialist, Ray doesn’t know what she needs and finds it hard to ask for help. It’s not until the family wedding that the desperate teen realizes that she’s been in the “final stage of a grand Disappearing Act” (pg. 74) from which she wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone and could finally just give up.
With all the positive affirmations about body image and awareness campaigns about eating disorders and mental illness, Small Displays of Chaos is still a timely and relevant story that needs to be told and heeded. Breanna Fischer has based Small Displays of Chaos on her own experience being diagnosed with anorexia with bulimic behaviours and convincingly shares her skewed thinking and dangerous pursuits with candor and insight. Luckily both Rayanne and Breanna Fischer are able to survive their crises and find the words to astutely convey the depth of those crises to provide valuable lessons.