This slim book is a story about a group of high school teenagers whom in an attempt to be more like the “prettiest” girl in school, who is very thin, go on a group diet. Two of the girls in particular with abandonment issues have unhealthy responses and take their distress to an extreme and use anorexia/bulimia and self injury as coping mechanisms – acronyms Ana and SI.
Anorexia and SI are painful subjects for me. I have a beautiful sister whom has “body image issues”. As a teen she dieted extensively, only eating salads and drinking large quantities of carrot juice until she was very thin and turned carrot orange on the soles of her feet and palms. We all assumed that this was due to an overdose of beta-carotene. The issues continue even now into her 40’s with different manifestations. Although humorous for me on a certain level - as a teenager watching my sister turn orange, it is a serious issue. This particular example helps one to understand the obsession surrounding being thin for some girls. Even more disturbing, I have a close family member whom has been using “cutting” as an emotional coping mechanism. It is very disturbing when someone you love uses these unhealthy means to deal with their emotions or to try and fit into an unhealthy model of beauty.
When reading this book, I could imagine young girls, and teens relating to the life issues which surround the main character and her friends. The story line and emotions felt real and normal within the text. This is important because it is young people the book needs to reach. Conversely, I found it frustrating and became annoyed when there was no mention of a character named Ana in the text since the title is Dancing with Ana. (Silly me.) It took some thought to figure out that Ana is a “code” young women use to address this issue and a means to keep it secret.
Consequently, through my search about these subjects I found there is a “cultish” behavior surrounding them. I have included links here to sites that may be of interest to parents, teachers, caretakers, and girls themselves to become aware of these scary actions. Sadly, in real life things don’t always end happily and healthily as the author has depicted in her book.
That this book could be used as means for important conversations and that it is very relevant in my life is the reason why I have given it 4 stars. We cannot prevent children from being subjected to these issues which are a part of growing up in today's world so guiding them is the key and perhaps this book can be a catalyst.
To purchase the book, book stats, and for further information on the author Nicole Baker please see the preview posted for Dancing with Ana at Layers of Thought.