The Laura L. Smith File:
Reviewed by Melissa J.
Skinny by Laura L. Smith
"Laura has not only captured the eating disorder world in authentic fashion, she has also used the book as a platform for helping bring out the answers to an eating disorder..."
It was with great interest that I approached the book Skinny by Laura
L. Smith. I read it through the use of four distinct lenses: those of an
avid reader, a Board Certified Counselor who works with eating disorder
clients, a woman who has spent much of her adult life working with adolescents
in both youth ministry and the counseling office, and finally, a woman
in eating disorder recovery herself.
As a reader and an adult who reads both teen and adult fiction, I found the book to be an easy read but full of depth for the younger adolescent age bracket. Laura L. Smith writes as if she remembers her own teenage years and nails the social drama, academic responsibilities, and turbulent emotions of youth right on the head. Teen readers will appreciate Laura’s realistic portrait of the adolescent years. This is a book that I will gladly recommend to my young friends, and I am sure it will become a favorite on their bookshelves.
As a counselor I approached this book from a critical standpoint. Would Laura portray an eating disorder as a drama filled, attention-getting issue, or would she show it for what it really is – an obsession-driven lifestyle that entraps and enslaves? She did the latter in a way that I applaud. In light of all the pro-ana and pro-mia (pro-anorexia/bulimia) propaganda that fills the internet, Laura’s figurative painting of the eating disorder world was as true as it gets.
This is not a book that young girls will read and then be motivated to become anorexic or bulimic because eating disorders were portrayed as easy or glamorous. Instead, it is a book that will cause teen girls to think twice before consciously choosing the path that will destroy their bodies and souls. Thank you Laura, for presenting anorexia as something that results in mental and emotional anguish and carries a price with it that makes life worse instead of better!
Coming from a professional standpoint, there were some contradictory points in the book, such as Melissa’s period being late and her mother gasping that she was skeletal, yet the Doctor saying that she “wouldn’t classify her as anorexic but instead someone who needed a problem addressed.” Typically a girl can be assured that she will receive an anorexic diagnosis is she has become skeletal and her menses have ceased. Given this, the book was lacking in a complete factual presentation of anorexia and the criteria surrounding a clinical diagnosis.
Still, as a woman in eating disorder recovery, I found the book realistic. Laura has grasped the compulsive thinking and perfectionistic tendencies that drive eating disordered behavior. This is exceptionally refreshing in fiction addressing this topic, as I have read many other books that just focus on a girl’s desire to be thin and pretty and never once touch the compulsive obsession to be perfect in everything she does.
For instance, when Melissa goes through her daily weighing ritual and her obsessive need to wait until after she weighs herself to brush her teeth, this is a clear window into the world of an anorexic. The panic at the thought of putting cocoa butter on her body and the complete meltdown of one of her safe foods not being available is another, completely realistic glimpse into the world of fear a woman with an eating disorder lives in.
In fact, the writing is so realistic that some may find themselves triggered by what they read. Those just beginning the fragile journey of recovery would be better off not reading the book until they are further along in the recovery because of this possible trigger affect.
Laura has not only captured the eating disorder world in authentic fashion, she has also used the book as a platform for helping bring out the answers to an eating disorder – an intimate relationship with Christ and a focus on who a young woman is in Him instead of her own perfectionism. Laura also hones in on the crucial importance of a strong support network for anyone working through an eating disorder, especially via the involvement of both supportive family members.
Skinny is a book that would be great not only for the shelves of adolescent girls, but also for the shelves of youth pastors, counselors, and even parents. In addition to the facts we can find in brochures when helping those with eating disorders, Skinny can also help adults understand the thoughts and emotions, as well as the compulsions, that truly drive an eating disorder.
Knowing the data surrounding an eating disorder is only half the battle. Entering into the emotions and thought patterns of the woman living in the eating disorder world is the other half. Laura helps us do that in her book.
Melissa J. Carswell: Melissa is a Board Certified Christian Counselor. However, due to the appearance of a little bundle of Miracle in the past year, the counseling practice is now on indefinite hold. Instead, Melissa has entered the world of freelance writing from home. She is currently one of the content writers for TotallyHer.com (to be launched in September of 2008). Melissa has a passion for mentoring teen girls and young women and does so whenever possible. Her heart longing, along with her husband, is to use her education and credentials someday to have a home full of abandoned, abused, and terminally ill childen. They are still waiting for God's hand to unfold that particular chapter of their lives. When Melissa isn't changing diapers, doing laundry, cooking meals, mentoring the afore-mentioned young women, tending to her garden, being her husband's biggest fan, and soaking in every cuddly moment with her daughter, she reads and she writes. It is not unusual to see 2-3 books laying around the house at any given time and the hard drive to her computer houses several partially-written manuscripts to the secret dreamed-of-published books Melissa hopes for in the future. You can check out A Weak Rose here.