Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig (review copy) - On the face of it, Leslie is a normal, healthy, well-adjusted fourteen-year-old girl. She goes to a good school, has a great friend in Cavett, and a mother who loves her to the moon and back. She should be happy, yet she’s not. She would be, she thinks, if only she were thinner. But “thinking thin” becomes a dangerous obsession and Leslie’s weight drops to five stone, threatening to destroy her and the whole fabric of her family life. Only by realizing that this condition is an illness – and one that has its roots in a deep problem – can Leslie hope to survive. From Amazon UK
This is such a brilliant, heart breaking but wonderful novel! I have no idea how I can possibly do this book justice with this review.
The book starts off a little slow. Leslie has started a new school, she makes a friend, and we see she has some issues with her mother. The issues run all the way through, but I must admit that I don't fully understand what her problems with her mother are. Sometimes she seems to love her desperately, and other times she wants to shout at her mother, but I can't see myself what her mum has done wrong, even though the novel is in first person. This may just be me, maybe it would be clearer to others. But the issues that she has she goes through in her internal monologue, and it's just heart breaking to see her chop and change so quickly from desperately loving her mother, to blaming her with such fury.
It's also heart breaking to read about Leslie developing anorexia. It starts with stomach flu. She loses a few pounds, and her jeans aren't as tight, so she decides to go on a "diet" - that involves eating hardly anything. Everyone compliments her as she loses weight, so she loses more and more. Though she doesn't know it at the time, the anorexia is the little dictator in her head, berating her over how greedy she is, telling her she's fat, but she's strong, and she can go without. The little dictator is merciless.
It gets to the point where how much food she's not eating, how much she weighs is all Leslie thinks about - until she can't make it to the bus stop to get to school because she is just so weak and tired. Reading it all made me feel so empty, like I was the one who hadn't eaten. I can't explain it, but I was just so effected by this story. She ended up wanting help, but it seemed like she didn't know exactly what help she wanted. When hospitalised, she wouldn't eat right and had no desire to put on weight, but she was desperate to be helped. It was just so hard to read. And every time I read Leslie saying "I'll know when I'm thin enough because I'll be happy", it was just so upsetting.
What also made this book extremely powerful was the fact that it was semi-autobiographical. Deborah Hautzig was suffering from anorexia, not yet cured, when this book was originally released. She was experiencing it as she wrote it. It's just so, so sad. This is the one book I have read for this month where there is no resolution. Does Leslie get better? We don't know. But she's getting help - and that's the point where Hautzig was at when she wrote the book.
This is a brilliantly powerful and poignant book that just took my breath away. It's just brilliant, and one I think everyone should read.
Thank you to Walker for sending me a review copy.
Published: 1st December 2008 (originally published in 1981)
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Deborah Hautzig's Website
Other Reviews of Second Star to the Right:
This Fleeting Dream
A Dazzling Distraction