The Drama Years tackled everyday issues, the complexities that underlie your "How was your day today?" conversations with your middle schooler. We based its content on the experiences of the girls we interviewed, and none of the girls in our community disclosed severe body image issues. Instead, they talked about the very real day-to-day ways that body image impacts their lives: what it feels like to have your developing body become a topic of conversation or teasing at school; why girls are suddenly clustering in front of the bathroom mirror at school, listing the reasons why they don't like how they look; the pressure to be pretty for their friends, cute for their parents and teachers, and hot for boys; what it feels like when a mom's discomfort with her body is apparent to her daughter.
But in a world where pretty means skinny and pretty is everything, where countless magazine coverlines and reality TV shows are dedicated to weight loss and the ways your life will completely, utterly, miraculously change for the better, if you just get rid of those last 10 pounds/your muffin top/cellulite -- it can only help adults to know how far down a rabbit hole those pressures can take you.
And that's where Wintergirls comes in. Written by award-winning YA novelist Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls is the story of Lia and Cassie, who make a chilling pact to be the skinniest girls in their school. It's an extreme story, to be sure -- but for any adult who wants to better understand the mind of a girl suffering from eating disorders, Wintergirls is the place to start.
7. DEPRESSION AND SELF-HARM: Cut by Patricia McCormick
When we set out to write The Drama Years, we weren't sure what Serious Issues the girls in our community would discuss, but in the end, those conversations covered two areas: divorce and depression/self-harm.
Self-harm can seem like a bigger mystery than anorexia, bulimia, addiction or other self-destructive behavior: why would anyone purposefully hurt -- cut/brand/burn/puncture -- herself? And why is it a behavior that seems to impact more young girls than boys? (I was shocked at the number of girls interviewed for The Drama Years who knew cutters at their school, but according to sociologists Patricia and Peter Adler, authors of The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury, cutting and other forms of self-harm are on the rise among tweens and teens -- and they're no longer necessarily seen as a precursor to further action, but a coping mechanism for internal pain.)
Like Wintergirls, Patricia McCormick's Cut is a similarly extreme story - the protagonist, Callie, is in a residential treatment center for cutting -- but her experience can be a helpful way for adults to start to understand self-harm and the drive to cut.
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