Perfect by Natasha Friend, Paperback | Barnes & Noble


4.6 288
by Natasha Friend

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Depicting with humor and insight the pressure to be outwardly perfect, this novel for ages 10-13 shows how one girl develops compassion for her own and others’ imperfections.

For 13-year-old Isabelle Lee, whose father has recently died, everything's normal on the outside. Isabelle describes the scene at school with bemused accuracy--the self-important (but


Depicting with humor and insight the pressure to be outwardly perfect, this novel for ages 10-13 shows how one girl develops compassion for her own and others’ imperfections.

For 13-year-old Isabelle Lee, whose father has recently died, everything's normal on the outside. Isabelle describes the scene at school with bemused accuracy--the self-important (but really not bad) English teacher, the boy that is constantly fixated on Ashley Barnum, the prettiest girl in class, and the dynamics of the lunchroom, where tables are turf in a all-eyes-open awareness of everybody's relative social position.

But everything is not normal, really. Since the dealth of her father, Isabelle's family has only functioned on the surface. Her mother, who used to take care of herself, now wears only lumpy, ill-fitting clothes, cries all night, and has taken every picture of her dead husband and put them under her bed. Isabelle tries to make light of this, but the underlying tension is expressed in overeating and then binging. As the novel opens, Isabelle's little sister, April, has told their mother about Isabelle's problem. Isabelle is enrolled in group therapy. Who should show up there, too, but Ashley Barnum, the prettiest, most together girl in class.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ever since 13-year-old Isabelle Lee's dad died nearly two years ago, her mother refuses to talk about him or cry publicly. Isabelle has followed her example, keeping her feelings inside. On the day of his funeral, though, she began binging and purging. When she's later caught (her younger sister tells on her) her mother sends her to an eating disorder support group, where Isabelle is surprised to see "perfect" Ashley, the most popular girl in her grade. The two form a friendship that revolves around their eating disorder; they use their hands to cram down mass amounts of food, then throw up in a dumpster, side by side (Ashley even introduces Isabelle to ex-lax). The story arc here is fairly predictable: Isabelle learns that Ashley's life is not so perfect after all, and this combined with therapy puts her on the road to recovery. But graphic binging and purging scenes ("I alternated handfuls of potato chips and HoHos with swallows of Diet Coke.... It always feels better coming up than going down") and Isabelle's therapy sessions help explain the disease to readers without seeming didactic. The believable and likable heroine relates many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments (in one scene, she and her sister decide to celebrate Hanukkah, which they haven't done since her Jewish father died; they raise their glasses to his empty chair). Ultimately Isabelle's story will both touch and educate readers. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Fine" defines the boundaries of thirteen-year-old Isabelle Lee's life: Everything is just fine. Never mind that her father died unexpectedly two years ago, or that her mother privately sobs herself to sleep each night. Never mind that Isabelle knows that she will never be cool enough to join perfect Ashley Barnum's in-crowd, or that Isabelle binges on junk food hidden in her closet under her father's old flannel shirt. Everything is fine-until Isabelle's ten-year-old sister catches her with her fingers down her throat, "puking her guts out." Bribes do not work with her little sister, and Isabelle finds herself in "Group"-Eating Disorder and Body Image Therapy Group-populated by five other young teens including Ashley. The friendship that develops between Isabelle and Ashley leads Isabelle into deeper danger, while at the same time providing her with a powerful mirror that ultimately moves her to make different choices. This novel is a fairly quick-paced, absorbing story of one young woman's world. Isabelle's first-person narrative is funny, realistic, and poignantly truthful. The book illustrates the critical roles that adults play in the lives of young teenagers and offers an accessible portrait of a troubled youth in the developing stages of bulimia. A potential selection for middle school health classes, the book's title might attract young teens. As with Preventing Eating Disorders Among Pre-Teen Girls (Praeger, 2004/VOYA review, this issue), this book would be best used in discussion with an adult. The detailed unhealthy ways to lose weight are presented without explicitly representing the serious risks of bulimia other than through the casual mention by Ashley that she needs toalternate between throwing up and taking laxatives because "otherwise you could really mess up your system." VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Milkweed Editions, 169p., and Trade pb. Ages 11 to 15.
—Kim Carter
Children's Literature
This is a poignant story about Isabelle, a thirteen-year-old girl, who has an eating disorder. She also has other issues one of which is dealing with her father's recent death. Isabelle thinks of herself as drab, fat, uninteresting to boys, and is envious of a popular, beautiful girl named Ashley. The story starts with Isabelle's younger sister, referred to as Ape Face, seeing her throw up after eating and tells their mother even though Isabelle begs her not to. Isabelle's "punishment" is to attend Group therapy which she looks at as a fate worse than death. Imagine her surprise when she goes to group and sees Ashley there. This revelation is a pivotal part of the story and Isabelle begins to understand that she is not alone in how she feels about herself. Isabelle goes on the bumpy road of ups and downs and realizes that this is a true disease and must be dealt with one day at a time. Unfortunately, eating disorders are prevalent with today's youth, and this book is one that should be in every school, classroom, and personal library. Even if a teen doesn't have an eating disorder, it is probable they know someone who does. The author paints very believable characters and uses language and thoughts that girls the same age can identify with. There is humor, sadness, and clear descriptions though out the story. I cannot imagine any teenager not liking this book. I will also go out on a limb and say that this book will be share between girl friends and discussions will ensue. I highly recommend this book. 2004, Milkweed Editions, and Ages 12 up.
—Kathie M. Josephs
Isabelle is just 13 years old. Her mother, her younger sister, and she are still reeling from the death of Isabelle's father. In fact, Isabelle's mother is barely coping, and her daughters are really concerned about her but don't know how to get help. The three seem to have an unspoken pact to not talk about the death, to not talk about their feelings—to pretend to be "fine." Isabelle tries to satisfy her emotional hunger by bingeing on junk food and then vomiting it up. The story begins when her little sister sees what she is doing and tells the mom: Isabelle is then put into a therapy group for young girls with food issues. She is stunned when Ashley, one of the most beautiful and popular girls in her school, joins the group; and then she catches Ashley vomiting in the girls' room at school. The two become a duo—hardly friends, really—spending a lot of time together, eating everything they can get a hold of and then vomiting. The realistic fiction tells how Isabelle begins to understand her own behavior and slowly reaches out for help. This is the first novel Natasha Friend has published, and it is a good one. She has taught adolescents and directs a summer camp, so perhaps that experience has helped her capture the minds and hearts of her adolescent characters. Bulimia is a disease that has been given a lot of attention, especially as a problem among older teenage girls. Friend addresses the fact that eating disorders are plaguing ever-younger adolescent girls, the age of Isabelle and Ashley. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Milkweed, 169p., and (paperback: ). Ages 12 to 15.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Eighth-grader Isabelle Lee describes her not-so-perfect life. She is dealing with her father's death and her grieving mother by bingeing and purging. On the surface, everything is fine until Isabelle's younger sister catches her in the bathroom making herself throw up. "Eating Disorder and Body Image Therapy Group" is the consequence. Isabelle is amazed when she discovers that the most popular girl in her grade is also at the first session. Through encounters in Group and at school, she begins to realize that all is not fine, even for seemingly perfect people. As the book ends, she is not completely cured but is beginning to learn how to deal with her grief in a more positive way by journaling and talking about her feelings. Friend combines believable characters and real-life situations into a fine novel that addresses common adolescent issues. Teenagers, even reluctant readers, will find the outcome satisfying.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Isabelle has a gaping hole in her life: her father died several years ago, and she has never expressed her emotions about the tragedy. She fills the void by binging on junk food, then forcing herself to throw up all those calories. She also finds a new friend, Ashley, a beauty and the most popular girl in their middle school, when the two meet in a group-therapy session for girls with eating disorders. Ashley has progressed much further into bulimia, and convinces Isabelle to leave her own friends and join the popular gang. As the story progresses, Isabelle discovers that Ashley isn't as perfect as she had believed. Clearly and simply written with a nice balance of humor and drama, with insight into the mind of 13-year-olds and how families suffer from trauma, this story can speak to girls coping with their own transitions into adolescence. (Fiction. 10-16)

Product Details

Milkweed Editions
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.44(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.56(d)
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
11 - 13 Years

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