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on 29 January 2005
As an experienced (15 years ill), well-recovered anorexic and student of the mind, I have read virtually all books written on eating disorders, especially anorexia. I read this book many years ago, and its negative impression has remained with me. There are elements of truth in this book - ones that actually made it "easier" for me to be anorexic when I first became ill. (I recovered several years ago). Triggering would be the correct terminology - so beware.

Behaviours are described with very little (if any) insight into the actual disease and its horrors. It is insulting to have such deep-rooted, painful issues dismissed by creating someone suddenly recovering by just deciding to. It is not that simple. Such writing may lead people to greater self-execration (if that is possible in eating disorder sufferers) by making them feel utterly blameworthy. It did for me.

Certainly, determination helps, but conscious efforts are not usually enough on their own - how ever strong you may be. Recovery needs buckets of support and time.

I cannot help but feel angry that the author seems to love himself a little too much and really believes his heroic, perceptive treatment "saved the day." Well meaning but with no insight. If you want a superficial book, read this. If not, don't bother. There are many better books to choose from.

I didn't bother to read the sequel.

Katy Sara Culling.
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on 20 May 2003
I first read this book at the age of about 11 or something, and I remember how it made me feel. I had known people with anorexia, and was later to realise that my best friend was bulimic and that i too was going to struggle with self-hatred and eating problems. Francesca's story moved me then, and recently, having been recommended this book by the computer, I read it again. It loses nothing. I couldn't remember the name of the book that touched me over nine years ago, then as soon as I saw it on the page it brought it back. This may seem irrelevant to a review, but is necessary to point out just how touching, poignant, saddening and honest this book really is.
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on 13 June 2007
I read this shortly after my own anorexia had begun. I measured myself against Francesca (the girl in the book) and felt I wasn't thin enough, disciplined enough, etc. There are behaviours and weights in here that I began aspiring to. If you are already vulnerable to eating disorders, such things are very dangerous.

I can see that the author had good intentions, such as teaching the public about a (then) little known problem, but the fact remains that for anyone vulnerable to an eating disorder, this book is likely to do more harm than good. If you are trying to recover, read something else. This book is likely to make you feel bad about yourself.

It gives the very dangerous impression that an eating disorder can be picked up and put down as simply as the flu. In reality, you will suffer horrible physical effects - worse, the longer you stay ill. The irony is that you do it to try to feel LESS disgusting, but in the end, when the physical side catches up to you - and it will - you feel even more revolting.

I would recommend the DVD Dying to be thin, and a series of video blogs on youtube by a recovering sufferer called Kat (user name eniwekwe) because these talk about the reality of the illness. Most sufferers think they are "getting away with it" because they don't feel so bad, but the physical damage will not make you feel ill until it has gone too far to be undone. Your insides will pack up and you can lose control of your bowels, you can lose your teeth, your hair, the use of your legs, you can get heart attacks... This lady on one of the documentaries was a ballet dancer and now has to use a zimmer at the age of 45. A friend of mine has a colostomy (a bag attached to her bowel).

These things are not (as I always thought) empty threats made to scare you into eating. They are true. They happen. I have so many really unpleasant physical problems now - they make me feel dirty, ashamed and powerless. I will not live as long as I could. And my body is half dead already. I cannot undo this and it is so very far from beautiful.

Sorry to rant, but it has happened to me and I wish I had known. I wish I'd known so that I would have realised that I wasn't gonna get away with it unscathed, and that the only real way out was to accept help, even though I didn't want to. Be healthy; turn back before you no longer have the choice. Don't read this book.
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on 4 March 2005
I wrote a review of this book 4 years ago now. I liked it at the time, but now I'm older, I can appreciate that this is a rather dangerous book. I remember reading it and thinking "I could do that..." NOT a good thought for a 16 year old girl. This book should not be aimed at teenagers. It teaches "methods" of starving oneself and manipulating others. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The only reason I have given it 2 stars is because it is well written, that doesn't mean I think it is a "good" book.
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on 21 February 2006
It is 20 years since I read this book and it is one of very few I remember. I found it very moving and as a teenager it introduced me to real side of a problem that was often a source of playground sniggering due to lack of understanding.
Befor reading this book I thought it was funny to poke fun at the thin girl and accuse her of being anorexic, I had no idea what turmoil you must go through to turn to this.
I can see that those who have been there may be worried that this may trigger the problem but as an ignorant child this was an educational read that I felt was well written. I would have no hesitation in reccomending it to my own children
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on 27 April 2004
My parents bought this me when i was first diagnosed with anorexia. A goodstory it is, but it can be soo triggering. When I was finally hospitalisedI'd read it all the time: it was my illness' way of clinging ontome.
DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE AN EATING DISORDER AND YOU WANT TO GETBETTER. Ana's, friends, you've probably read it. Remember, it is fiction.How many normal 5'6''girls weigh 98 pounds to start with?
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on 15 January 2008
Once i started this book i couldn't put it down.... i was drawn into Kessa's little world which i felt comfy and obsessed with. I myself am in a recovery from an eating disorder and found it comforting to be able to understand and read the obsession of it from another point of view. The only down point was that i found this book very triggering and that it had an effect on my own health and recovery, i was so obsessed with Kessa's obsessions that i to started to pick them up and take them on. Only read this if you are free from an eating disorder or a friend/ family of someone who has one to get a better understanding of the illness. I would say anyone who has or is in recovery from an eating disorder (however long) should decide carefully whether or not it will be beneficial for them to read it.
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on 20 April 2006
While I understand that people view this book as setting anorexic standards to the anorexic, I do consider this to be a good book. I think it is important to bear in mind the time period that this was written in (it's a pretty early book on ED considering it was first published in 1979).

I think it showed people who had no idea about anorexia what it really is and the danegrs of it. Of course now it is important to show that anorexia is far more complex than just not eating, going into hospital and then getting better.... and those that have experience of eating disorders realise how unrealistic that is. But novels limit what an author can do realistically. I believe the aim of Levenkron was to highlight the problem of anorexia at a time when people were pretty much uninformed about it.

Despite the book being your 'standard anorexic story' I still think it is worthy of a read. At least suffers can feel they are not alone.
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on 2 April 2002
This book is a moving account of a girl's battle with anorexia, but in comparison to Marya Hornbacher's "Wasted" or Rachael Oakes-Ash's "Good Girls Do Swallow", it is a rather romanticised account of a girl who becomes anorexic in a split second, suffers through the stages like a textbook, and then decides to get better and does. Stereotypical characters, especially Francesca's father, can become annoying at times, but as a sufferer of anorexia I did find this book genuninely moving, if not a little inaccurate at times.
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on 17 June 2002
This book takes a close look at a girl's struggle with anorexia and how her life and relationships with parents, peers etc. change as the condition develops. The book is clearly a ficticious story as the characters are the embodiment of every stereotype (teenage girl, caring, nosy mother, dominant father, etc.) but that does not spoil the emotion displayed in this book nor does it trivialise anorexia. It is a good read for any teenager or young adult (male or female) who has an interest in people and their problems and can easily spark an interested in eating disorders to lead onto further reading of a more factual nature. I recommend this book to anyone, anorexia is probably one of the most widely known and recognised forms of self harm and so prevalent in modern society that more people - particularly those who deal with teenagers (parents, techers, sports coaches etc)- need to be made aware of it.
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