Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

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Overview

The phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller. More than 1.5 million copies sold. Now available from Riverhead.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their ...

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Reviving Ophelia

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Overview

The phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller. More than 1.5 million copies sold. Now available from Riverhead.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their true selves. In Reviving Ophelia, these girls' uncensored voices are heard from the front lines of adolescence. Personal and painfully honest, this is a compassionate call to arms, offering strategies with which to revive these Ophelias' lost senses of self.

A therapist who has worked extensively with young girls reveals firsthand evidence of the damage that can be caused by growing up in a "girl-poisoning culture, " raises a call to arms, and offers parents compassion and strategies for survival. A perfect book to commemorate "Take Your Daughter to Work Day."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From her work as a psychotherapist for adolescent females, Pipher here posits and persuasively argues her thesis that today's teenaged girls are coming of age in ``a girl-poisoning culture.'' Backed by anecdotal evidence and research findings, she suggests that, despite the advances of feminism, young women continue to be victims of abuse, self-mutilation (e.g., anorexia), consumerism and media pressure to conform to others' ideals. With sympathy and focus she cites case histories to illustrate the struggles required of adolescent girls to maintain a sense of themselves among the mixed messages they receive from society, their schools and, often, their families. Pipher offers concrete suggestions for ways by which girls can build and maintain a strong sense of self, e.g., keeping a diary, observing their social context as an anthropologist might, distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. Pipher is an eloquent advocate. Psychotherapy Book Club selection; BOMC and QPB alternates. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Pipher writes from a dual perspective: that of a clinical psychologist who has been counseling girls for more than 20 years and of a mother of a teenaged daughter. Her report is frightening. Girls reaching adolescence in the 1990s must thread their way through a maze of difficult and sometimes life-threatening decisions about alcohol, sex, drugs, weight, and interests. Girls receive mixed messages from society about how to look, act, and feel, Pipher asserts, even though they are not intellectually ready to make decisions of this magnitude. As a result, depression, eating disorders, addiction, and suicide are increasing at an alarming rate. Pipher offers some practical suggestions and strategies for parents to help girls into adulthood with their sense of self intact. She also sounds a wake-up call to parents, urging them to become involved in the lives of their daughters and to change the societal pressures that push girls into crisis situations. This clear, compassionately written work, read by the author, is recommended for most libraries.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399139444
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pipher
Mary Pipher, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding our Families and Another Country: Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders. Awarded the American Psychological Association's Presidential Citation, Pipher speaks across the country to families, mental health professionals, and educators, and has appeared on Today, 20/20, The Charlie Rose Show, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air.
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Read an Excerpt

Reviving Ophelia is my attempt to understand my experiences in therapy with adolescent girls. Many girls come into therapy with serious, even life-threatening problems, such as anorexia or the desire to physically hurt or kill themselves. Others have problems less dangerous but still more puzzling, such as school refusal, underachievement, moodiness, or constant discord with their parents. Many are victims of sexual violence.

As I talked to these girls, I became aware of how little I really understood the world of adolescent girls today. It didn't work to use my own adolescent experience from the early 1960s to make generalizations. Girls were living in a whole new world....

Even in our small city with its mostly middle-class population, girls often experienced trauma. How could we help girls heal from that trauma? And what could we do to prevent it?

This last year I have struggled to make sense of this. Why are girls having more trouble now than my friends and I had when we were adolescents? Many of us hated our adolescent years, yet for the most part we weren't suicidal and we didn't develop eating disorders, cut ourselves, or run away from home....

But girls today are much more oppressed. They are coming of age in a more dangerous, sexualized, and media-saturated culture. They face incredible pressures to be beautiful and sophisticated, which in junior high means using chemicals and being sexual. As they navigate a more dangerous world, girls are less protected.

As I looked at the culture that girls enter as they come of age, I was struck by what a girl-poisoning culture it was. The more I looked around, the more I listened to today's music,watched television and movies and looked at sexist advertising, the more convinced I became that we are on the wrong path with our daughters. America today limits girls' development, truncates their wholeness, and leaves many of them traumatized....

What can we do to help them? We can strengthen girls so that they will be ready. We can encourage emotional toughness and self-protection. We can support and guide them. But most important, we can change our culture. We can work together to build a culture that is less complicated and more nurturing, less violent and sexualized and more growth-producing. Our daughters deserve a society in which all their gifts can be developed and appreciated. I hope this book fosters a debate on how we can build that society for them.


From the Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

Preface 11
Ch. 1 Saplings in the Storm 17
Ch. 2 Theoretical Issues - For Your Own Good 29
Ch. 3 Developmental Issues - "I'm Not Waving, I'm Drowning" 45
Ch. 4 Families - The Root Systems 74
Ch. 5 Mothers 101
Ch. 6 Fathers 115
Ch. 7 Divorce 131
Ch. 8 Within the Hurricane - Depression 146
Ch. 9 Worshiping the Gods of Thinness 166
Ch. 10 Drugs and Alcohol - If Ophelia Were Alive Today 186
Ch. 11 Sex and Violence 203
Ch. 12 Then and Now 232
Ch. 13 What I've Learned from Listening 248
Ch. 14 Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom 260
Ch. 15 A Fence at the Top of the Hill 282
Recommended Reading 295
Index 297
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Reading Group Guide

1. Why are kids having more trouble coming of age in 2000?

2. Discuss the differences in childhood and in parenting between your era and today. What was better, or worse? How can we preserve the best of both eras for our children?

3. How do we build a sense of community in our neighborhoods today? How can we help other people's children? What institutions can help us?

4. How do we balance the need to protect our children with the need to raise them free of unnecessary fear?

5. What useful work do we have for children in our community?

6. What can we do to fight violent and sexualized media and the omnipresence of marketing to children?

7. What experience in adolescence are mostly girls' experiences? What experiences are mostly unique to boys? What issues are shared by both genders?

8. What do you think a typical school day is like in the life of your child? (Your students?)

9. How can schools and families protect girls from eating disorders? How can we hold advertisers and media more accountable for their images of young women?

10. How has our culture changed for girls since Reviving Ophelia was written? Discuss both negative and positive changes.

11. How do computers affect girls' social and emotional development?

12. How can we help girls hold on to their true selves?

13. What role do sports play in girls' development?

14. Why do girls argue so much with their mothers and what can be done about it?

15. How can fathers help their daughters through adolescence?

16. What are the signs of depression in teens and when should a family seek professional help?

17. What guidelines andpolicies should parents have about their children's friends?

18. How can we keep our teens connected to older and younger people and not isolated in peer culture?

19. What is a good school harassment policy?

20. How do we teach boys to respect women and girls?

21. What are some differences in adolescence across ethnic groups--specifically African-American, Asian, and Hispanic?

22. What is your policy about movies, television, music, and computers? How do you enforce it? What are the relative merits of protecting children from media versus exposing them to media but processing it with them and helping them understand it?

23. How can we teach children to behave properly? 24. How do we teach values to our children?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 60 )
Rating Distribution

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(30)

4 Star

(14)

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(6)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 62 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2005

    Reviving Ophelia & My Experiences

    I opened Reviving Ophelia with an open mind. As a 17-year old high school junior, I am usually turned off by books that my mother and teacher enjoy. This one, however, was much different. Immediately, I was pulled into the book. Maybe it was because I realized that I am one of the girls Pipher is talking about; I am Ophelia. I doubt if I was a boy or even a father I would be very interested, but because it pertained to me directly I was pulled into the reading. I could relate to each and every one of the 'characters' in one way or another. I felt for these girls and their problems, and each and every one of them contributed to the book. I don't think I've ever read a book before and was able to just say 'Yes! I know exactly what you are talking about!' It's nice to know that there are actual studies done on teenagers; that someone would think to take the time to figure out what it is with teenagers (girls in particular) that make us the way we are. Mary Pipher's main thesis is practically the life of every teenage girl out there, including myself. It makes me realize that as a young teenage girl, I am not alone. By reading this book, I have learned that society just expects boys to be able to handle more on their own and be more independent than girls. That is just an assumption made by many. As to if it's true or not, I couldn't say because I am not a boy, I have no brothers, and I have never read a book about the lifestyle of a teenage boy. A lot of girls today no longer have the support behind them telling them 'You are not alone'. The author's tone was very sympathetic and understanding to the girls, and she told each story with a personal glimpse behind it. It's almost as if Mary Pipher had known each and every one of those girls for years. Each tale of the unique girls had a conflict and resolution. Throughout the last third of the book, a lot of the girls' problems had to do with their relationships with others. Boyfriends, moms, dads, and siblings were all common topics. Some of the girls that I read about were so interesting that I wish I could read more about them. Mary Pipher has established a theme that growing up as an adolescent girl is not easy. It's challenging, confusing, scary, and exciting all at the same time. Adults sit back and watch us run and fall, and they have to step back and let us get up on our own. We won't learn anything by not falling, but there comes a point when the last time you fall and you feel as though you are never going to make it back up, an adult is needed to lend that hand and pick us back up. Pipher calls it 'girl-poisoning'. Girls are pushed to be someone they aren't; do things they don't want to do; and be happy doing it. There is media, sexism, feminism, and raging hormones that are everywhere. Throughout this book, these girls' tales have been completely real and un-cut. They tell it how it is, and then Pipher explains the psychological aspects behind what they feel and think. One of my favorite phrases in the book was, 'Ophelia died because she could not grow. She became the object of others' lives and lost her true subjective self.' (Pipher 292) Ophelia is from Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet, she is a free and happy child who loses herself at adolescence. When she falls in love with Hamlet, her only objective in life becomes living for his approval. Torn apart by her efforts to please both her Hamlet and her parents, she loses the fight when Hamlet rejects her for being a compliant daughter. Beset by grief, and without any inner direction, Ophelia drowns in a creek, weighed down by her heavy and elegant clothes. Pipher uses the title Reviving Ophelia in reference to bringing back what died inside Ophelia- that adolescence innocence. Is it really possible to bring back a self that you lost? And if you did bring back that self, would it be the same thing? Mary Pipher is posing the question, What can we as a society do to help adolescent

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    Terrible book

    This book is horrible i have to read it for school and it is impossible to get through the author repeats the same thing over and over she classifies all young girls as weak and mindless she makes it seem as if girls are helpless i thought itd be okay and shed actually tell the stories of the girls and explain how she helped them to inspire readers but all she does is talk in circles trying to show how smart she is by using wordy scentences and big words as i teenage girl i can identify with some things she says but she offers no solutions and doesnt recognise the stregnth of girls she only talks about how they all get messed up during adolescence news flash people change kids experiment with differnt things in order to find themselves you dont have to write a book about itbifbypu have no idea what your talking about

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Great

    I read this for my journalism class this past summer, and I loved it. Not only did it answer some big questions of mine, but - as a high schooler- it helped me understand what girls my age are going through. It's a great book for anyone trying to understand a teen girl's mind and its a great read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2008

    what the hell?

    this book does NOT explain teens today. it is very outdated and repetitive. what she basically says is: a) teens lose all interest in sports b) teens lose all communication with parents c) teens become depressed d) yada yada yada and i just couldn't read any more. a waste of my time.

    2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Relatable

    I am a twelve year old girl with depression, and even though I've only read the sample(because my mom wanted it and I was curious as to what she wanted) it just reminded me of my elementary days. I used to run around all the time, speak my own mind, not worry about what others thought of me. I got along with everyone, sand in public, read vivaciously. I was so happy. Then after the death of my father (he had depression) I became a recluse. I don't know if anyone in my class noticed this, but I became mean and sarcastic then. No longer the vivacious girl that ran around and sang in public, I kept on going on a ladder, and not up, but down. Now, in 7th grade, the beginning of new crushes, responsibility, freedom... but with the good comes the bad. Insecurities, depression, rejection-the feelings every girl experiences. This book, even just a sample that was only 15 pages, gave me a feeling of acception. Alot of people go through this. Buy this book. You will not regret it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Understanding Teenage Girls

    The book, Reviving Ophelia talks about realy life stories of girls who goes through adolescence and how their attitude changes quickly and their behavior is unreadable. In the story, girls go to therapy and open up about their life and feelings to Mary Pipher. The girls struggling with many problems when they met high school and that's when everything changes. They starting drinking, smoking, have sex, and goingto parties. Their parents starts worriying about them and don't know what their daughters are thinking. So this book would be so helpful for parents to understand the difficulties their daughter is having. This book could relate to many people especially to the parents out there who are struggling to communicate with their daughters. I enjoy reading this book and I like how some of these girls could relate to me and reading others stories that are the opposite of my life.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2008

    Everyone should read this book

    Reviving Ophelia is definitely an eye opener. It talks about all the pressure being put on teenage girls today, and how severely it is effecting them. I think every parent should read this book, to learn how to help their daughters during difficult times. It touches on just about every subject; divorce, addiction, boyfriends, and even death. The stories are very relateable and true to life.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2008

    greatest work of mary pipher......a most read book

    Mary Pipher is a great psychologist.You know as i read her book--reviving ophelia, i was inspired, came to the point that i want to be like her. i want to help girls and women who encounter problems. I really love this book and i also recommend that parents should read it to.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2005

    Very poorly done

    I gather that Mary Pipher is a few years older than I, but still of my generation. I can't say that I have much intimate knowledge of teenage girls either at the time Pipher was writing or now, but I do recognize that she has made some of the most basic mistakes in sociological and psychological analysis, and judging by my own experience, her understanding of the generation of the mothers' of these teenagers is limited and faulty. Pipher begins with what is sometimes regarded as Freud's most fundamental error, i.e., taking the patients who enter one's office as a valid cross-section of the society. She also uses her experience of growing up in a small town surrounded by a closely-knit extended family as the exemplar of our (and the mothers') generation. My own experience was a lot closer to that of the teenagers that she describes than to hers. Pipher seems to be utterly unaware of the Sixties Counterculture, which casts serious doubt upon her qualifications as a social critic. I think it is irresponsible to encourage girls to regard themselves as misunderstood and alienated, and in fact, most of the Baby Boomers had direct or indirect knowledge of the pressure for sex and drugs. Whether or not it has become worse, it certainly isn't a new problem. Pipher also ignores the various studies, dating back to at least the 1970s, showing that despite the fabled Generation Gap, most teenagers share their parents' values (radical teenagers often have radical parents) and recently, a study showing that most girls feel close to their mothers. Fianlly, mainly of the toxic 'isms', like lookism, which Pipher insists the older generation doesn't know and cannot understand, have been around for decades, if not centuries or millenia.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2005

    As Liberal as You Can Get

    If you are a conservative mother of faith looking for help with your teen daughter, this is NOT the book. Pipher is a radical leftist who: praises the mother of a 16-year old girl for encouraging her in her pursuit of lesbianism, attributes vegetarianism in teen girls to a desire to 'speak for those without a voice,' and quotes numerous leftist politicians (Hilary Clinton, Janet Reno, etc.). She ascribes to the tired old feminist notion of girls being short-changed in our schools; however, Christina Hoff Sommers has blown the lid off that scam! She seems to genuinely believe her 'theories,' but admits they are simply her observations as a therapist. She also seem obsessed with the notion that sexual abuse of teen girls is rampant; however, everything is anecdotal. Pipher does admit that the liberal let-them-find-themselves parenting does NOT work, and that parents need to be loving, but IN CONTROL. It's worth a read, but beware.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2001

    very dissapointing

    I was insulted by this book. Pipher generalized all adolescent girls based upon the few that she worked with. If I were to judge myself upon this book, then I am not an adolescent girl. Pipher mentions only negative things about adolescence and describes it as some kind of teenage hell. I have experienced none of the things she talks about in her books. She puts down teenage girls by saying things like lots of teenage girls become vegetarians because they can identify with the defenselessness of animals. I want to know why she thinks that girls are defenseless. While reading this book I had to constantly stop myself from throwing it out the window. She herself said that she has no idea what teenagers are like today and that things were different when she was a teenager. Why then does she consider herself knowledgeable enough on the subject to write a book about it?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    SSOOOOOO GOOD!!!!

    NOOOOOOOOOOO! I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY! I just read the sample to this, and let me just say... it was amazing! Be open minded when you do read it though. My english teacher told me to read this because I, too, would like to become an adolescent psychologist! Today's teenagers need help, girls and boys. I've heard some of the things that people go through and I wish they could have help. I think if more people read this book, they'd understand teen girls in a less hypocritical way. Most people do look at girls as a weekness, even girls think other girls are! Whatever you do... Give this a chance! You wont regret it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2008

    If this is the true picture of teenage girls, our society is in deep trouble!

    My husband and I have two very different teenage daughters. The first is a 4.2 student, long-legged, blonde, poised, and certain she has risen above the angst. She is just waiting for her friends to catch up (yet she never leaves the house and picks on her parents relentlessly). The second, three years younger, was a tomboy, popular with the boys and girls, and them --bam--hit junior high and 'where'd she go?' When the second hit a critical point, we looked for guidance and the therapist recommended this book, Reviving Ophelia.' I read it, wanting to help my daughter, only to realize we were sailing through as parents if the case studies were even half right. I suppose Ms. Pipher has the view of one who has seen it all 'alcohol abuse, drugs, sex, cutting, suicide, holy smokes!! Good God!!' Well if this book did anything it reinforced that we were on the right track and I shouldn't lose too much more sleep. But it does beg the question, is this really a true picture of what girls go through in our society? If it is, we as a society are in big 'BIG!!' trouble. I don't think it is. Call it denial, I just refuse to believe it's that bad. Still thanks for the basic advice, Mary. I did take quite a few notes.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2005

    Highly Recommended!

    As a high school aged teen facing many social issues this book hit home. Reviving Ophelia looked at the physiology and sociology of teen girls facing tough issues. It was broken down in to sections talking about relationships with parents and friends, drugs, sex, alcohol, and self-image. This book gives real life stories of how girls cope in certain situations and how they can be helped through these situations. I enjoyed this book very much; when I was finished (and didn¿t want to be finished) I passed it on to my parents and a good friend. I think this book is great for many teens that are interested in there own life, and for all parents of teen girls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2005

    I wish this book had been written while I was still in high school

    This book came out just shortly before I graduated from high school and I dearly wish that it had been written at least 5 years earlier as I(and many other girls) could have had an easier time of it during and after school. I read this book a few months ago(as a 27 year old) and it explained a lot of things to me including why I spent so many years in La La Land(survival technique) and why I became such an incredibly private person(another survival technique). Until recently I thought I was a basketcase as a teenager. Turns out I was one strong cookie getting through a hellish time in the healthiest way possible. I highly recommend that every girl and her parents read this book before high school.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2004

    A 'You're Not Alone' Book

    I am a psychology student at the university of Utah. I read this book as a junior in High School and was absolutely drawn in and amazed. Pipher explains the emotional struggle of real, everyday girls. These are not your typical 'That would never happen to me' experiences. Great for girls and parents of girls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2003

    Valuable Read

    I read this book as a freshman in high school, too bad so late. My sister read it as a seventh grader and I wish both my parents had picked it up, too. It offers a surprisingly unbiased view at what teens have to go through everyday, not a nagging, parental view telling us not to do this or that. I'd recommend it for young teens and would ask their parents who read it to remember what their teen years were like, too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2003

    Eye-Opener

    This book was a real eye opener. It had things in it that I had never known about what some girls had to go through. It is kind of a depressing book, just because of some of the girls stories. For example, their parents getting divorced. That would crush anyone. Espcecially at a time in their life that is so delicate. In the book, it explains how life is like for girls that just live with one parent. Most girls would rather live with their dads because many teens don't get along with their moms because of differences. I would highly reccomend this book to teens and to moms that are recently dealing with adolescent girls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2002

    I am saved

    Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls is a huge understatement of what Reviving Ophelia by Dr. Mary Pipher can really do for society, parents, boys and not to mention, teenage girls. This book is full of deep emotion, feeling and a slight bit of understanding of what is inside the female part of the teenage culture today! Pipher explains what is behind the common teenage diseases today such as eating disorders, depression, and suicide. She gives real life cases of girls lost in societies grasp and not knowing what to do. The girls are so easy to relate to while understanding them is impossible to most. Pipher is brave at attempting to understand this culture and how society is so influential among women. She explains in simple terms how culture is killing the women developing inside an adolescent body. Pipher explains the reality of society and what will come of girls in the future if society does not soon understand what they are doing to kill the playful and colorful spirits inside adolescent girls. I have truly found myself in Reviving Ophelia and I don¿t understand how anyone can¿t!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2002

    GREAT FOR BOTH TEENAGE GIRLS AND PARENTS

    This book has helped me to bond with my family and friends significantly. My mother first read it and passed it on to me. After I read it I passed it on to my group of best friends. This book has travelled far. It has enabled us to speak openly to each other about many issues that we were ashamed of in the past. The issues raised in this book can be related to by many teenage girls. It also helps parents to understand what their daughters go through and they don't even realise it. Great book.

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