Saturday, May 09, 2009

Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Haying Your Body by Courtney E. Martin

Reason for Reading: New Author, Dewey's Challenge
"Why does every one of my friends have an eating disorder, or, at the very least, a screwed-up approach to food and fitness?" writes journalist Courtney E. Martin. The new world culture of eating disorders and food and body issues affects virtually all -- not just a rare few -- of today's young women. They are your sisters, friends, and colleagues -- a generation told that they could "be anything," who instead heard that they had to "be everything." Driven by a relentless quest for perfection, they are on the verge of a breakdown, exhausted from overexercising, binging, purging, and depriving themselves to attain an unhealthy ideal.

An emerging new talent, Courtney E. Martin is the voice of a young generation so obsessed with being thin that their consciousness is always focused inward, to the detriment of their careers and relationships. Health and wellness, joy and love have come to seem ancillary compared to the desire for a perfect body. Even though eating disorders first became generally known about twenty-five years ago, they have burgeoned, worsened, become more difficult to treat and more fatal (50 percent of anorexics who do not respond to treatment die within ten years). Consider these statistics:

  • Ten million Americans suffer from eating disorders.
  • Seventy million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders.
  • More than half of American women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five would pre fer to be run over by a truck or die young than be fat.
  • More than two-thirds would rather be mean or stupid.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychological disease.

In Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, Martin offers original research from the front lines of the eating disorders battlefield. Drawn from more than a hundred interviews with sufferers, psychologists, nutritionists, sociocultural experts, and others, her exposé reveals a new generation of "perfect girls" who are obsessive-compulsive, overachieving, and self-sacrificing in multiple -- and often dangerous -- new ways. Young women are "told over and over again," Martin notes, "that we can be anything. But in those affirmations, assurances, and assertions was a concealed pressure, an unintended message: You are special. You are worth something. But you need to be perfect to live up to that specialness."

With its vivid and often heartbreaking personal stories, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters has the power both to shock and to educate. It is a true call to action and cannot be missed.
Dear Dewey,

When I started this book, I planned to read it chapter-by-chapter like you did. That lasted a very short time! Why? Because, well, I didn't like it... This book started off really interesting, but then it went quite downhill from there! I actually had to force my way through most of it. Normally I would've just quit entirely, but I had such interesting arguments with the charming comedian about the book, so I felt it was worth finishing! We are both debaters, so it was fun to see both sides of the gender story from our perspectives. The big problem with this review, and why I saved it to the end, is because I finished this book a while ago now. If I had wrote this review like a moment afterwards (like a smart person would have), I would have all sorts of reasons about why this book bothered me. Unfortunately, I have read a lot of great books since and they have entirely erased this book from my memory! I just blocked it out. I can remember some of the arguments I had with the charming comedian, but that's about it. So, because this book is not very fresh in my mind, I am afraid that this is not going to be a great review! I hate that! Just because a book is not for me, doesn't mean it is not for other people. I usually like to make it balanced, but I really don't remember this book very clearly... I do apologize... I am going to leave it at that, I am afraid!

Until next time...

To see what Dewey had to say on this book, click here.


  1. It's funny that you enjoyed lively debates with the charming comedian, but the book itself did not carry real weight in your mind. However, if it did lead to debate, it can't be all bad.

  2. Julia: It was pretty much I would tell him what the book said and he would tell me why she was wrong. lol And then I would challenge him or point out flaws in his argument. It was fun. I learned a lot about how men think about the whole issue!

  3. My husband and I have discussions like that too. :-) They're fun, even if the book may not be. As you pointed out though, it can help you get through a book you aren't enjoying all that much.

  4. Literary Feline: Especially since my guy doesn't read that much. :) It gives us something literary to talk about.

  5. It doesn't sound like something I would like either however, you're right that it would make a really, really good debate book for maybe a reading group.

  6. Tink: You are right, even if it is bad it could really work for a book club.


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I am so sorry, but I turned anonymous commenting off. I have had it from the very beginning, but that is how the spam is getting by my spam filter at the moment. If it is a big deal I will turn it back on and moderate all comments. I also changed moderation from older than 14 days to older than 7.