A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is a powerful read -- the depiction of troubled 13-year-old Isabelle Lee will touch a nerve with adolescent girls. Isabelle's bulimia is caused by her mourning for her father. Besides graphic descriptions of bingeing and purging and some experimentation with laxatives, there are painful scenes of Isabelle's observations of her mother and sister, each also desperately mourning in silence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ape-Face, otherwise known as April, or Isabelle Lee's 10-year-old sister, catches Isabelle in the midst of making herself throw up. She tells her mother, who then enrolls Isabelle in group therapy for eating disorders. Isabelle's thoughts are always on the death of her father and her frustrations with her mother's insistence on keeping these painful thoughts on the inside. In therapy, Isabelle is surprised to be joined by Ashley, the most popular girl at school -- of course everyone thinks she has it all. They bond over their bingeing/purging and start socializing together outside of group therapy. Ashley invites Isabelle to sit with her at the "popular" table at lunch.
Though silent in group therapy, Isabelle takes to journal writing and begins meeting with Trish, the counselor, individually. Trish helps Isabelle open up and talk about her sadness and the problems at home. From there she looks for ways to connect to her sister and help her mother.
Is it any good?
In PERFECT, Natasha Friend has created a character who will make readers cry and cheer as she struggles and then slowly faces her problems. These problems reflect her mother's inability to accept the father's death, her sister's desperate need to talk about him, a new relationship with the most popular girl at school, and most of all, her own sadness she's repressing in damaging ways. Readers may not have the same problems as Isabelle, but watching her ability to face them and move on will be inspiring.
With its realistic dialogue, difficult moments of self-discovery, and harsh critique of relationships, Perfect is a very quick yet unforgettable read. The graphic nature of this book may make it hard for some young teens to read alone. However, it's an excellent choice for a mother-teen daughter book club.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the effects of bulimia and laxatives on the body.
How does it damage your teeth and digestive system?
What are other
harmful long-term effects?
Parents can also talk about Isabelle's
distorted image of her body. How do you think mourning for her father
contributed to Isabelle's eating disorder? How did the rest of the
What kind of support does this family need to move
forward? What should you do if you or someone you know shows signs of
an eating disorder?
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