The Synopsis Skirmish 2022—3rd place
Sixteen-year-old Jordan has always been able to count on one thing: running. But when the cross country star gets caught up in the mounting pressure to perform and can no longer rely on running as his outlet, he latches onto dieting instead and spirals into an eating disorder. Now at the tail end of a three-week hospitalization, Jordan is eager to return to his life, in particular, running, which he isn’t allowed to do until he’s healthier. He steps down to an outpatient program and goes back to school, where he lies to his friends about where he’s been, attributing his absence to a car accident. At home, his relationship with his parents is strained as the family struggles to come together again.
When Jordan has to work with a tutor to improve his algebra grade, he meets Adri, a passionate runner and social outcast with a few skeletons in her own closet. Adri is drastically different than the hypercompetitive runners Jordan is used to hanging out with, and as the tutoring progresses, the two develop an unlikely yet mutually-beneficial friendship: Jordan finally has someone who he can confide in about his eating disorder—and his sexuality—and Adri no longer has to face her complicated life all alone.
The more Jordan accepts his situation and embraces his identity, the more headway he’s able to make in his recovery. He even strikes up a relationship with Rico, an avid baker who also happens to be his coach’s son. Even though Jordan’s life is moving in a forward direction, one thing remains uncertain: his future as a runner. He rejoins the team in time for outdoor track but quickly realizes he’s not the same runner he once was. This, coupled with his worsening body image, leads him to revert to restricting food.
As Jordan’s disorder threatens to regain control over his life and upend his relationships, he finds himself faced with a difficult decision. With support from his parents, he quits outdoor track and works with his dietitian to improve his mental health. He makes amends with Adri and asks Rico to prom, even though he knows that means he’ll have to come out to his peers. But prom goes a lot better than he had expected, and for the first time in Jordan’s life, he embraces his gay identity.
On the day before the SATs, Adri’s mentally ill mother overdoses and winds up in the ER. In helping Adri through her crisis, Jordan realizes how far he’s come and how he’s now in a place where he can be there for Adri, who has been his support system all year. The story ends with Jordan and Adri running together at the local reservoir. They part, and as Adri runs another loop by herself, Jordan drives home, reflecting, as he does, on the year. Although he’s still unsure of what will become of his future, he has a feeling both he and Adri are going to be okay.
Julia Tannenbaum is the author of The Changing Ways Series, a contemporary young adult trilogy that chronicles a teenager’s journey to overcome anorexia. She’s an advocate for mental health awareness who has worked with reputable organizations including The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). Tannenbaum graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Creative Writing and English BA in December 2021. She currently lives in Connecticut with her family.