Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela

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Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: An interesting biography of a teenage anorexic, but lacking in some areas.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 256 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0340988404

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Although never having had an eating disorder myself, I have been interested in them since I was young. I was a competitive gymnast and that is a world where eating disorders do creep in. Now I'm a mother of three teenage daughters, I worry about the subject from a whole new angle, especially as one of them is a size 6-8 and idolises those super-skinny celebrities.

So I really wanted to read Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela, as it is billed as a teenager's frank account of her struggle with anorexia. It looks the kind of book a teenage girl would pick up, as it has a pretty title edged in pink and a photo of a stunning young woman – Ali – on the cover.

The book is less than 190 pages and can easily be read in one or two sittings. The text includes extracts from Ali's diary and is well spaced, to ease reading. There is one section of eight photos of Ali, including the obligatory skin and bones warning shot.

While there are good points about this book, I felt it was disappointing overall and did not deliver in some respects. This is such an excellent opportunity to really tell it how it is and hopefully provide other teenage sufferers with help and empathy. Instead, I felt this almost seemed to make anorexia sound easier than it is! As Ali tells it, you get ill, you go into hospital, you get better. While obviously simplifying the process here, I thought the disadvantages and suffering of anorexia should have been stressed.

In some ways, the book seems almost too politically correct. With pro-ana websites trying to promote anorexia (Yes, really!), I can understand it is important to be careful of the terminology you use, so as not to be seen to encourage potential sufferers. But, at the same time, this kind of book should be honest and insightful and explain how teenage girls fall into the anorexic trap. Like drug addicts, there must be a reason why this lifestyle seems attractive and there must be a high – albeit a short-term and potentially fatal one.

When Ali ends up in an eating disdorders unit in a Bristol hospital, she seems to be happy to eat again, even asking for more food and bigger portions. This seemed to me to be contrary to what I have previously read by anorexics, who find their treatment initially abhorrent.

While accepting Ali's account is honest, it didn't reveal enough to me and seemed quite superficial at times. To really understand an anorexic, I think you should get to know them as people and here, I found Ali a distant woman, who rarely gave the reader more than a fleeting glimpse of herself. Her biographical details and information about her family was completed in just over a page!

The format of the book is rather confusing – with non-italicised text being the new parts and the italicised paragraphs being diary extracts. The extracts are not dated either, but with some of them, you can tell they were written at different times and it was hard to get a picture of the time scale throughout.

The text also becomes quite repetitive and should have been more tighly edited. Sometimes, she writes about something then repeats it in a slightly different way in the following diary extracts, giving the reader a feeling of déjà vu.

Although I am quite critical of this book in many ways, I would suggest it was a worthwhile read for teenage girls in particular, especially if you ever hear them aspiring to become a Size Zero. But in my opinion, there are better books around, especially Anorexic by Anna Paterson.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

You might find help in a fictional form - try Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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Buy Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Weighing It Up by Ali Valenzuela at Amazon.com.


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