The skinny one.

A semester in the life of Claire, a young woman with an eating disorder. That's pretty heavy stuff, no pun intended.

First things first, the writing. This work stands on its writing, which conveys Claire's queer combination of self-loathing and vanity very well. It's a delicate balance. I've heard of works out there that try to downplay the heroine's sheer Mary-Sue gorgeousness by making her think she's sub-average. This is not one of those works. The dissonance between how the world sees Claire and how Claire sees herself is a serious matter, and we know from the get-go that she is working under a dangerous delusion. The work never attempts to impress on us that Claire is actually gorgeous: it's mentioned, instead, that she is popular, and this is framed as a thing that she risks throwing away. And Claire is not above preening when she hears what she interprets as praise, whether it is meant that way or not. The resulting impression is one of desperation, a desperately flawed character as far from the "secretly gorgeous Mary-Sue" as possible.

Does this work do its subject matter justice? That's a difficult question. I personally have never had to deal with eating disorders either first-hand or second-hand. Looking at it from my own idea of how human nature works, though, I think it's perhaps a little too easy to have Claire finally decide to seek help; and in making it that easy, it risks trivialising the issue, which I'm pretty sure the author would be horrified to hear. But that is the price of creating a game in which the conflict is internal to the main character. As players, we, like Claire's friends, want her to seek help and get out of the situation she's in. We're drawn to pick the options that would help her, whether they feel in-character or not. I think it is a credit to the effectiveness of the writing that the "clearly bad options" still felt like reasonable choices. As well, I do note a couple of instances where the too-easy solution is listed in the options but not made as an active link. This was effective in demonstrating Claire's inhibition.

All that aside, I liked the branching nature of the story. There were a few elements that could have used more work. The scene with Eliza and the scone seems very odd if we've managed to play in such a way that we were never introduced to Eliza before. I get the idea that there's some stat-tracking going on with regard to Claire's relationship with her friends though it seems the fruits of a good relationship with Jess (whether she voluntarily talks about her date with Tyler or whether you have to coax it out of her) only appear on a replay, never on the first run on starting the game. There's mention of a boyfriend, Derek, but Derek himself never appears, and most iterations don't even mention him until you've struck up a close friendship with Adam--and even then, only if you choose to check out one of the footnote-type links.

It's an effective story, I think. It has some flaws, but it gets its point across. As a breakfast, I'm thinking muesli and yoghurt, with a side of raspberries and honeydew melon. Very healthy. Black tea, no sugar, no cream.