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Poignant read perfect for mom-teen girl book club.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The dangers of bulimia are clearly drawn, but more than the physical horror of the illness, the book explores the emotional trauma caused too.

Positive role models

Both strong and weak adult role models. Mother figure needs support and
is unable to recognize danger signs in teen daughter. An aunt and
therapist are able to help the main character and other family members.


Graphic descriptions of throwing up after bingeing. Experience with Ex-Lax.


The main characters talk about body image, specifically about the size of their thighs and their ability to fit a bra.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Mention of parents drinking gin-and-tonics.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

  • family mourn?

  • 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?

Book details

Author:Natasha Friend
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Milkweed Editions
Publication date:October 10, 2004
Number of pages:172
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

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Kid, 12 years old June 20, 2009

i loved it

I think it is a must read for mature kids 11 and older. Although, it has a few gross scenes, it is very touching. It is about a girl struggling to overcome bulimia.
Teen, 13 years old Written byTasteTheFailure... August 2, 2009

Loved it(:

I liked it. It was very informative of what hundreds of kids go through.
Teen, 13 years old Written byPrissy_g July 28, 2009

OK, I guess...... : I

This book was OK. It just informed you on how to be Bulimic and what to drink so you can Puke better, it gets you thinking about doing that, It was kinda a waist of time.
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