Skinny, How Anorexia Affects A Family and How A Family Affects Anorexia.

Kaslik, Ibi. Skinny. New York: Walker & Company, 2004.

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"Almost, almost but not quite, you can function while starving."

Giselle and Holly struggle to get along like most sisters do; however, their story is a tad different than most. While Holly is in eighth grade trying to grasp the concept of womanhood while being a star, track athlete; her much older sister Giselle is trying to find a balance between acing her first year in med school and battling anorexia. Their parents are immigrants from Hungaria and for the last decade they have been raised in a loving, but single parent home. Giselle blames most of her deep-seeded issues on her deceased father, Thomas, who she felt always loved Holly more. This makes Giselle extremely sensitive in her flashbacks of her family and jealous of her younger sister when she learns that Holly occasionally sees her father's ghost. Giselle has seemed to cope by creating a somewhat "second personality," which randomly creeps up in throughout the book (noted with italics) and will tell her she is not good enough or needs to 'get sick' to feel better. Most of these occurrences happen in times where Giselle feels unsure about herself or what to do.

"You knew it'd end up like this. I go when you go. That's the problem, don't you see?"

Holly, who is deaf in one ear and not as academically successful as Giselle, struggles with school and slight behavioral problems and finds her only outlet to be long distance running. On top of this she is terrified she will lose her sister to anorexia and becomes even more frightened when Giselle is diagnosed with endometriosis. As Giselle spirals out of control, both feel helpless in controlling the problem; however, Holly does take a stand and refuses to watch her sister eat poorly or not at all. Holly and Giselle have more in common than what’s meets the eye, sadly though it all seems to relish in tragedy.

"I didn't mean to hurt anyone by losing all this weight, except I wanted to see what would happen if I stopped eating. It comes easy to me, almost too easy. I'm naturally good at losing weight. All I have to do is forget to eat."

The two sisters take turns narrating the story which gives an extremely interesting point of view from both sides. Throughout the book there are blurbs of medical terminology that not only tie in Giselle’s only common passion with her father, medicine, but also allows the reader to see how Giselle feels the only way she knows how, in a less emotional, more technical way. Skinny addresses a variety of issues that can be relatable to all teens on some level. There are a variety of subjects touched on such as peer pressure, fitting in, doubting yourself, and never feeling comfortable enough in your own skin- and that’s not including all of the previous stated tribulations that these young woman face. These are heavy topics for students to take on and there is no sugar coating it, this book is sad, painful, full of hurt, and doesn’t end on an upbeat note; which shows the brilliant truthfulness of Kaslik's writing. There are so many aspects that can be discussed with students and a plethora of deep thinking topics that it would be a shame to not give them an oppertunity to read Skinny.

Recommendations for Teachers

Teachers who choose to add Skinny to their curriculum are doing a great service for their students. Unlike most YA books dealing with eating disorders, Kaslik’s piece does not center on the typical story of a chubby girl who, in attempts to fit in with the pretty, thin girls at school develops an eating disorder. Rather, this piece gives a more realistic and in depth look at the obsessive thoughts that can drive girls to eating disorders.
By contrasting the two sisters, teens will be able to see the different ways in which the human body can be tormented and pushed to the limit. Students will easily pick up on the theme that people have different ways of dealing with grief, and many factors in life can lead to one’s unraveling.
This book is a breath of fresh air for teachers because it departs from the typical subject matter of media representations and the glorifications of “Hollywood-skinny” women that leads to eating disorders in teens. This will give students an opportunity to examine many of the various factors that can lead to a downward spiral.
The plot is not linear, so it may be confusing for students. In order to help organize the plot and narrators, teachers might want to point out the clues that indicate which sister is speaking (ie. Giselle’s passages begin with medical excerpts), and should constantly clarify the difference in voice and motivations of the two young women. Be advise there is swearing, but not excessive. The book slightly dips its toes into a few sensitive issues such as homosexuality, questioning of paternity, and terminal illness.

About Ibi Kaslik
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Ever wonder if literary talent can be passed through genes? Well that is just the case for Isi; her father, Peter Kaslik, is a Hungarian editorial writer, traslator, and essayist. Ibolya “Ibi” Kaslik was born August 20th, 1973. She is a Hungarian-Canadian novelist, journalist, and poet. Kaslik has a master’s degree in creative writing from Concordia University and her short stories and articles have appeared in literary magazines such as Matrix and Geist. Her debut novel, Skinny, was published by HarperCollins in May 2004. It was shortlisted fro the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2004, the CLA Best Young Adult Book in 2005, and the Borders Original Voice Award in 2006. Skinny also appeared on the New York Times best sellers list for two consecutive weeks in 2008.Kaslik herself dealt with an eating disorder as a teen, and said that the character of Giselle was taken from a part of her own experiences. Kaslik is also a music lover and occasionally is found singing and playing her guitar. She is also a supporter of environmental and existential causes. Skinny also became one of New York Times Bestseller's and is currently being translated into several languages to be sold overseas.

Multimedia Video

Although we used our best efforts, we were unable to find a video interview of Kaslik on Skinny. However, the following clip was found on YouTube and is a personal story of anorexia and in some ways is the equivlent of Skinny. The anorexic girl in the video also has a 'second personality' named Ana, who she feels has taken over her body and mind. She also has a sister she longs to be close with once again. It's heartbreaking to see the family pictures and read what this disease has done to this girl and how far it has crept into all aspects of her life. It couldn't sound more like what Giselle is thinking and longing for.

Additional Resources:
  • Kaslik Homepage - Kaslik's homepage that includes bio, photos, and reviews about Skinny and her other book, The Angel Riots.
  • Share Your Story - Kaslik's personal story- and an interesting one at that- where she discusses the meaning of her name and a great way to follow up Skinny.
  • National Eating Disorder Association - Allows people to share their healing experiences, they also are involved in research efforts for eating disorders.
  • Interview with Kaslik - She discusses where the idea for Skinny came from and other interesting insights.
  • Anorexia - An explanation, symptoms, and other warnings of anorexia to look out for.
  • Seeking Help - A look at all types of eating disorders as well as myths, facts, signs, and where to get help.
  • Interview - An interview with Kaslik where she answers questions about Skinny.
  • Sheppard Pratt - An eating disorder clinic that takes an active roll in the community to promote healthy body images with middle and high schoolers.
  • Eating Disorder - This site offers a great sidebar that categorizes specific symptoms and offers help for each.
  • Facebook - Become apart of Kaslik's fan page.
--Ashlie Genrich and Lauren Sibula (Other reviews: Smashed and Cut).