International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review
it up by Ali Valenzuela
Hodder Children's Books; (Mar 2009);
it up follows Ali Valenzuelas frank account of being anorexic
with diary extracts, from her point of view when she was suffering
from the disease, alongside a first person commentary, written from
her perspective now as she is controlling the illness.
The story starts out as you would expect at the first point Ali became
conscious of her anorexia. This occurs when she reacts to being rejected
with friends by turning to exercise, as she explains this allowed her
to feel good, and didnt require any company.
Alis exercise then leads to obsessive healthy eating and the constant
monitoring of her weight, setting herself increasingly lower weight
Weighing just under 8st and am 5 foot 7. Have been a bit lazy
this summer, better get off my fat arse and do something! Periods have
been gone for about four months.
The story shows how the illness progresses, effecting her health and
gradually isolating from her friends and family. This is shown particularly
in chapter two where the writer includes a letter from her friend, who
stuck with her throughout the illness. The letter expresses the friends
concerns for Ali and how she feels she is slipping away from her friends
and family. Alis illness ultimately leads to her hospitalisation,
where her diary entries continue to chronicle her emotional and often
disturbing battle with the disease.
The story doesnt end with a Hollywood happy ending and conversely
doesnt suggest there is no hope for anorexia sufferers. Instead
the author shows how although her anorexia will always be there, with
her having up and down days, she has learnt to control the anorexia
rather than the anorexia controlling her.
Weighing it ups real account of a persons battle with anorexia
provides readers with a deep insight into a disease, which is so often
misunderstood as a persons simple yearn to lose a bit of weight.
The uncensored nature of the texts diary entries, along with its
graphic pictures of the author at the height of her illness, not only
show a tremendous amount of bravery from the author but also add to
the authenticity of the text.
My one criticism of Weighing it up would be, while the texts
inclusion of the authors present day commentary, alongside her
past diary extracts, give readers a more objective viewpoint of the
illness, they can also sometimes make the text feel slightly repetitive.
This is because at some points the author describes the exact same event
that the reader has just read in the previous diary extract, with little
However, I would still strongly recommend Weighing it up to teenagers,
whether they are suffering from an eating disorder or not, as the book
deals with a variety of issues, including friends and family, school
work etc, which will speak to readers on a range of levels. All of this
contributes to making Weighing it up a truly inspirational text.
© Alana Hebenton May 2009
Alana is a graduate of the Creative Writing Programme at the University
of Portsmouth and wrote her major project on Anorexia
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