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The Best Little Girl in the World
By Steven Levenkron

A review by kaytay

Claimed to be one of the best books written on the subject of Anorexia Nervosa, this book has both positive and negative effects on those who have suffered the disorder on a more personal level. The Best Little Girl in the World was written in the 70s, and plainly states there is no cure for Anorexia. This is no longer true, and victims of the disease should be made aware of this fact.

Both praise and warnings have come from those who have read the book. Most say it is extremely triggering, i.e. it does not do much in the way of discouraging unhealthy behaviors or inspiring the sick to work towards recovery. Many avid fans call Levenkron’s book their Bible, the source they model their lives after. Although this was not the intent of Levenkron when he wrote the book, it is an issue that cannot be ignored.

There is only one reason why The Best Little Girl in the World is triggering; Levenkron has recreated the reader’s life in his book. Reality and fiction become one. Only a person who is well into recovery or is not suffering in the grip of an eating disorder should consider reading the book. But despite the reactions of some, The Best Little Girl in the World is a very worthwhile book, enabling one to get a glimpse into the life of a girl with Anorexia. A lot is explained; the reader learns of the severity of the disorder, the emotional trauma, and the possibility of death that comes with the obsession to become thin.

I wanted to put this under this node because of what kaytay had to say about its having a triggering effect on eating disorders, with which I totally agree.

People should really not write about eating disorders, at least not in writings directed toward adolescents and young adults. While a normal person might see this as useful information designed to scare and deter someone from persuing a dangerous line of thinking and behaving, a person susceptible to such a disorder will only look to such information as inspiration or as a manual to eating disorders.

My father made me watch a special on 20/20 or some other news magazine about eating disorders when I was nine or ten. Very contradictory behavior, considering I started getting lectures on why I should never ever let myself get fat when I was seven. I'm not sure what effect he intended it to have, I know I got a lecture on how stupid such behavior was afterward, but I just remember a lot of stuff coming together when I watched it. I had been warned about getting fat and been told not to eat desert several times, but I didn't get the connection. Oh, you don't eat and then you'll lose weight. Before seeing this, I didn't even know that it was possible to make yourself throw up, not to mention make you lose weight. So then when I started to get teased about being "pleasantly plump" in grade school, I turned to this new information, thinking that it would make the teasing stop.

In sixth grade, I got this book about eating disorders, called "Dying to Eat." It was about two girls, one anorexic and one bulimic who were in treatment for their problems. I read it religiously, hiding it from my mother like a boy my age would hide a Playboy. The part near the end when the main character nearly bleeds to death when her esophagus bursts while she makes herself throw up didn't faze me (at the time throwing up at least twice a day on average) at all, I was just in awe of two girls who could let themselves get thin enough to be hospitalized for it.

Back in those days, I would read everything I could get my hands on about eating disorders. Magazine articles are especially horrible, in Seventeen they'd tell the story about some poor girl who nearly died but finally came around. Turn the page and you have models who resemble the pictures of the anorexic at her worst smiling at you selling clothes. Who wouldn't admire the protagonist of The Best Little Girl in the World?

Instead of articles and novels glorifying anorexia in an attempt at warning, might I suggest more articles on the disease and warning signs in say, Redbook and McCalls, so that parents will be more likely to catch an eating disorder before it reaches its extremes?

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