Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig

Friday, July 16, 2010

author’s website: Deborah Hautzig
original publication date: August 1981
reissued in 1999 by Puffin Books
appeals to: Young Adult
topic: Eating Disorder (anorexia)
length: 158 pages
overall rating: 3 stars
body image & self perception issue: anorexia

*the back cover*
Leslie Hiller is a bright, attractive, talented teenager who leads a privileged life in New York City. She is also a perfectionist. When she starts something, whether it’s a drawing or her homework, she will not stop until it is truly finished. This time, she has started to diet. And Leslie finds herself becoming obsessed, getting thinner and thinner, until she is forced to realize that her quest for perfection is killing her.

*my review*
There were many things about this book that I liked, and many that I didn’t, but the first paragraph of this book was at the top of things I did like. The book starts, “It’s hard to know where to begin . . . I wonder if there’s even such a thing as a beginning . . .” In terms of a story about a girl with an eating disorder, it was interesting that our narrator couldn’t even define where or when it began. She goes on to describe her life as a normal 14-year-old girl living in New York. However, soon we realize that Leslie is obsessed with how she looks. In fact, by page 12, she is describing herself - 5’5.5” and 125 pounds – and says, “If I were think, my life would be perfect” (p. 12). This becomes her mantra throughout the story.

The major struggle with the eating disorder doesn’t begin there. In fact, the beginning of the problem reminded me of a line in the movie, “The Devil Wears Prada,” where a character says, “I’m on stomach flu away from my goal weight.” That seems like such a crazy statement, but for Leslie, that is exactly how her downward spiral into the eating disorder began. During winter break, Leslie had the stomach flu, and when she realizes that the flu caused her to lose enough weight that her jeans were too big, she is motivated to start (and stick to) a diet. The diet she chooses doesn’t seem to bad at first: healthy food and some sit ups are things we could all try. But she takes it to the extreme, working her way from 45 to nearly 700 sit ups, and restricting her food to what I’d estimate is no more than 500 and probably closer to 400 calories a day.

As the story progresses and her disorder becomes more and more severe, a number of changes happen, both physical and psychological. She stops having her period as her weight falls and falls and falls. Even when people point out how thin she is getting, she doesn’t believe it. At one point (p. 51) she and her best friend Cavett have a conversation that captures how twisted Leslie’s self image is. Basically, Cavett wants to know when Leslie is going to be eating again, and Leslie replies by saying, “When I’m thin enough.” Cavett is shocked and says as much, but Leslie continues to affirm that while Cavett IS thin, she isn’t.

At different places in the book, Leslie comments on her current weight and on her goal weight of 105. The scary thing is that when she reaches her goal and still doesn’t feel thin, she keeps losing. She restricts her food intake even more and soon loses the energy to get through the day. But still, she loses weight. There are sentences scattered throughout the novel that count down the pounds with ticks (for example “100, 99, 98, 97, tick, tick, tick.” p. 63) and still, Leslie’s mantra is “I’ll know when I’m thin enough because I’ll be happy.” (p. 61).

One thing that was strange in this novel is that Leslie didn’t want to be sick, she was willing to go to doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, and even to be hospitalized. She just wanted to be thin above all else. When her mother suggests doctors, Leslie goes willingly, even though she knows she is well below the healthy weight for her body. She even agrees to be hospitalized, and yet, she continues to lose weight.

Even though this book was relatively short, I found that it took me a long time to read it. Some places were very slow moving, and others were just difficult to read. Sometimes, there would be paragraphs of Leslie’s thoughts that kind of spiraled around without really making a point, and I kind of got lost during those sections. I didn’t think that they really advanced the plot or added much to her character. And the part I was most disappointed with was the ending. As the end of the book drew closer, I wanted there to be some kind of closure or conclusion, but there really wasn’t. In fact, the book ends with one of Leslie’s thought sequences, and while there were a few good points, it didn’t have enough for me. I even turned the page hoping for a little bit more conclusion! Instead, I found the author’s afterward, and truthfully, that made the best conclusion the book could possibly have had. The afterward doesn’t have spoilers in it, so you could read it at any time, and I think it makes the book so much more meaningful. I’ll leave you with a quote from the afterward:
“Anorexia . . . is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to be proud of. It isn’t anybody’s ‘fault.’ It’s an illness – a life-threatening illness – and it’s treatable.” (p. 157 – in the afterward)

*short and snappy*
writing: the book was published in 1981, and I think you can feel the age of the writing. It sounds weird, but I really think that the writing style of YA literature has changed a lot in the last 29 years, and this is reflective of its time.
plot: varied – some places were slow, others moved quickly and kept you hooked
characters: frustrating – Leslie really captures the essence of a girl with anorexia, but it is still frustrating to read her flippantly talking about how she just isn’t thin enough – what makes her a bit more likable is the fact that she doesn’t want to be hurting her family and she does make an effort to explain to them that she can’t help her disorder.
judging by the cover: As I was looking for images of the cover, I actually found three. The first is the one that matched the book I read, but the other two paint interesting pictures too!


asamum said...

Great review. I actually picked this up in order to follow #BISPMonth. I have already encountered a teen with food issues in the library, it is nice to have insight into this disorder. Thanks again :D

juliannelefay said...

I liked this book, but I also found it strange that it just stopped. I agree with you about the style feeling dated, the way Leslie thought and spoke just isn't, I think, the way teenagers think and speak today.

Anonymous said...

Asking questions are genuinely pleasant thing if you are
not understanding something fully, except this article offers
good understanding even.

Also visit my weblog; Diets That Work
Also see my web page - diets that work

Anonymous said...

This text is worth everyone's attention. How can I find out more?

My site :: best diet plans

Anonymous said...

I quite like reading through an article that
can make people think. Also, thanks for allowing
for me to comment!

Here is my site; nike free 7.0

Anonymous said...

Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this blog. It's
simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's very difficult to get that "perfect balance" between usability and appearance. I must say you've done a awesome job with this.
Additionally, the blog loads very fast for me on Opera. Excellent

Feel free to surf to my site ... wholesale oakley sunglasses

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ӏ have recеntly bеen seaгching for іnformation appгoximately this subject for a long
timе and yourѕ is the gгeatest I've came upon so far. But, what concerning the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source? rippln - rippln app -

My website ... Ripple scarf crochet Free pattern

Anonymous said...

Touche. Great arguments. Keep up the good spirit.

My web site ... polo ralph lauren outlet

Anonymous said...

Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the
book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics
to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog.
An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

Also visit my web page: cheap ralph lauren polo

Anonymous said...

Hi there would you mind letting me know which web host you're utilizing? I've loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most.
Can you suggest a good internet hosting provider at a honest price?

Kudos, I appreciate it!

my blog :: cheap ralph lauren

Anonymous said...

Hi there friends, nice post and fastidious arguments commented at this place, I am truly enjoying by

My web site: supra vaiders

Anonymous said...

Hi there mates, pleasant article and pleasant urging commented here,
I am really enjoying by these.

my blog ... supra vaiders

Anonymous said...

For the reason that the admin of this website is working, no uncertainty very shortly it will be famous, due to its feature contents.

Here is my web page ... supra thunder

Anonymous said...

Үou've made some decent points there. I checked on the internet to find out more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.

Feel free to visit my web page: Buy Hcg Drops

Anonymous said...

Hi to all, for the reason that I am genuinely eager of reading this weblog's post to be updated on a regular basis. It includes pleasant data.

My site ralph lauren polo sale

Anonymous said...

Asking questions are in fact nice thing if you are not understanding anything fully, however this
post offers nice understanding yet.

Have a look at my web blog ... polo ralph lauren sale

Anonymous said...

I want to to thank you for this good read!! I certainly
loved every bit of it. I've got you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post…

Also visit my site :: polo outlet online

Anonymous said...

Fastidious answer back in return of this query with
real arguments and explaining the whole thing regarding that.

Feel free to visit my blog post; Cheap Oakleys

Anonymous said...

My dеveloper is trying to persuade me to move tо .

net from PHΡ. I haνe alwayѕ disliκed the іdeа
because οf thе expenses. But he's tryiong none the less. I've been
using WordPrеss on vaгious websiteѕ foг about a yeаr
anԁ am concеrned аbout ѕωitchіng
to another platform. I havе heaгd good things about
blogenginе.net. Is there a wаy I cаn tranѕfer all
my wоrdрreѕs cοntеnt іntο it?
Anу kind of help woulԁ be rеally aρpгеciateԁ!

Аlso visіt my ωebsitе
local business directory

Anonymous said...

Hey there! Quick question that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4. I'm trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this issue.
If you have any suggestions, please share. Many thanks!

Feel free to surf to my blog post polo factory outlet

Anonymous said...

What's up every one, here every one is sharing these kinds of experience, thus it's fastidious to read this webpage,
and I used to pay a quick visit this weblog everyday.

Also visit my website polo outlet online

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Αlsο visit mу web site home business
ideas []

Anonymous said...

Itѕ lіκe you reаd
my thoughts! Υou apρeаr to grasр а lot appгοximately this, suсh as
уou wrote thе guide in it οr somethіng.
I feеl that you simply cοuld do with somе р.
c. to force the meѕsagе home a lіttle bit, but
іnstеad оf thаt, that is magnificent blog.
A fantastіс read. Ι will defіnitely bе baсk.

my sitе :: sportsbet

Post a Comment

Leave a message . . . I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions!

◄Design by Pocket