How anorexia and overeating have their roots in pain: the class book review

Our reviewers were concerned that this story about a girl's obese mother would be depressing. Instead, they were drawn in by the gripping plot. And the antics of the pet goat

Jackie Murrell

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Title: Wishbones
Author: Virginia Macgregor
Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Teacher review

Feather knows her beloved mother is overweight and that she refuses to leave the house. But it is only when her mother lapses into a diabetic coma on New Year’s Eve and has to be lifted to hospital by crane that Feather realises the truth. Mum is morbidly obese and will die soon if she doesn’t make some changes. Yet it seems that Mum won’t even try, and Dad has given up. Why do they feel this way, and why does everyone seem to be keeping secrets from Feather?

This is a delightful book, written with sympathy and humour, which looks into the very topical concern of eating disorders at both ends of the scale. It stresses that pain, guilt or grief often lie behind extreme behaviour, but that suppressing these emotions will just make things worse.

Feather is a very convincing teenager, and her struggles to understand what is happening around her will strike a chord with anyone who has felt left in the dark by the baffling ways of adults. As she begins to fit together the pieces of the mystery surrounding her family, she learns the importance of friends and the support of her community – a wonderful cast of characters who all play their part in helping her, and themselves, to understand and find a way forward. A sprinkling of romance and a few big dreams are added to the mix, to make a hugely enjoyable read.

And how could you not love a book featuring a wandering pet goat named Houdini?

Jackie Murrell is librarian at Bromley High School, in Kent. She tweets as @LibraryGeek12

Pupil reviews

‘Like unlocking a chest full of gold’

What I enjoyed most about reading Wishbones was finding out all of the mysteries and secrets – it was like unlocking a chest full of gold.

I felt really close to all of the characters, and it was an interesting story that drew me in. Throughout the book, Feather was really brave, determined and never gave up on her mother. I think her personality was an extremely important fragment of the story, because I felt like she was the glue that held everyone together.

The moral of the story was to always stay strong. I think it was really touching, and it was also a heartwarming story that connected me and the characters the whole way through. I found it really hard to stop reading!

Emily Kerr, Year 7

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‘I felt positively happy and at peace’

When I first started reading this, I have to admit that I was worried. I have read so many books that frankly distressed and depressed me, and I thought this would be the same.

I was wrong. At the end of this book I did not just feel not sad – I felt positively happy and at peace.

My favourite character had to be Houdini, the goat. I know it sounds silly but I really feel like he helped a lot of the characters. For example, he helped Reverend Cootes and Feather make friends, he helped Reverend Cootes get over his wife not being around, he helped Feather’s father feel happy even when things were tough, and at the very beginning of the book he helped Feather realise there was something wrong with her mother. He also brings people good luck. Overall, he makes people happy and I feel that he is more like a human being then a goat.

This book was humorous, moving and in parts a little sad, and it’s for all these reasons I would recommend it to someone ready to read a good book.

Scarlett O’Keefe, Year 8


Wishbones is a very inspirational book about Feather’s mum being obese, and the challenges she has to face every day. As the story unfolds, it urges you to keep on reading and tie the mysteries together.

I love this book! It is gripping! As you read on you become more engrossed in the story. You can’t put the book down! You want to find out what happens next – whether everything will be OK or not.

I love books like this – books that are based on issues that are happening to families all over the world. I will love to recommend this book to all my friends because I feel that they would love the mysteries.

Sara, Year 7

‘For fans of Jacqueline Wilson

I really enjoyed Wishbones, a novel about an inspiring young girl, Feather, who is trying to bring her family together after a life-changing event on new year’s eve. Feather never gives up, no matter how hard the challenge gets, even if the snoopy and arrogant reporter Allen gets in her way!

When I first started reading, I was very doubtful whether I would like the book or not, as I do not usually read books in this genre. However, I was surprised that I quite liked reading a book of this genre and I was hooked in – I couldn’t put the book down! I would definitely recommend this book to you if you are 11 years of age and older, especially if you are a fan of Jacqueline Wilson.

Overall, I would rate Wishbones 4 and a half stars out of 5. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did!

Hannah Bekman, Year 7

‘Grief, pain and guilt’

Feather adores her mother, and doesn’t realise that her mother has become dangerously overweight until she falls into a diabetic coma on New Year’s Eve. Then Feather overhears careless talk by the nurses in the hospital when they say that Feather’s mother has six months to live. Feather sets out to make healthy changes to her family’s life but is confused and hurt when neither her mother nor father supports her efforts. Worse, they undermine her and her father keeps giving her mother crisps and fried food to eat.

When a very thin American boy joins her school, she is struck by the contrast between someone who won’t stop eating and someone who won’t eat enough. She learns that emotionally upsetting events can cause eating disorders in both men and women, and can cause anorexia or compulsive overeating. She feels incredibly frustrated as she tries to understand the reasons people abuse their bodies like this, because she is scared for them and gradually learns that grief, pain and guilt can trigger this kind of behaviour.

The story ends well, but one of the hardest lessons she learns is that she cannot make people respond the way she wants them to.

Angharad Sauter, Year 8

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Jackie Murrell

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