Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Keeping Up Appearances: Stories about Teens with Body Insecurities - July 2013

Selected and annotated by Julia Reynolds


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. Viking, 2010. 288 p. Gr. 9 up.
Lia and Cassie were best friends; they did everything together, even developing eating disorders in a childhood pact to be the thinnest one. When bulimic Cassie dies mysteriously, anorexic Lia is torn apart. And when Cassie starts haunting her, Lia's grip on reality, sanity, and health starts slipping away. Unlike other "eating disorder" novels, Anderson's treatment of Lia's relapse is truly believable and ultimately (and satisfyingly) disturbing.

Clayton, Colleen. What Happens Next. Poppy/Little, 2012. 310 p. Gr. 8-12.
Cheerleader and straight-A student Sid goes on a ski trip and meets a cute guy at a party—and suddenly her world turns upside down. Instead of getting everything she wanted, Sid can't remember most of that night, and what she does remember is too painful to think about. Unable to tell anyone, she develops bulimia, stays up all night exercising, and drops her AP classes to hang out in the AV room with sensitive stoner Corey, whose kind support and devotion helps Sid realize that being happy and moving on from trauma are not just possible, but perhaps within reach.

Cronn-Mills, Kristin. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Flux, 2012. 271p. Gr. 9-12.
Transgender Gabe (born Elizabeth) loves being a radio DJ, where he can finally be himself and experience what life will be like after he transitions. When his classmates discover that their favorite radio DJ wasn't born a boy, though, Gabe faces the dangers of being outed and losing his radio show, while trying to keep his crush and best friend and help his parents understand who he really is. This story of a transgender teen believably portrays the difficulties with coming out and transitioning while avoiding clichés. A helpful authors' note that clarifies some terminology regarding sex and gender and the multiple identities that fall under the transgender "umbrella," as well as some resources for parents and teens follow the novel.

George, Madeleine. Looks. Viking, 2008. 240 p. Gr. 9-12.
Upperclassman Meghan (shy, invisible, and morbidly obese) and freshman Aimee (bitter, fiery, and anorexic) team up to enact revenge upon their mutual enemy: sneaky, backstabbing Cara, editor of the literary magazine. Together, they forge an unlikely friendship and concoct a devious plan for the kind of vengeance that only works in high school novels—which makes it that much more satisfying when they actually go through with it.

Griffin, Paul. Burning Blue. Dial, 2012. 304p. Gr. 9-12.
Former perfect beauty Nicole is traumatized when she is mysteriously attacked with acid, leaving her face burned and scarred. Awkward loner (and secret hacker) Jay befriends her, and while he can understand what it feels like to feel like a freak, he also needs to know what really happened and why. This mystery-thriller twists and turns as Jay and Nicole sleuth out the secret conspiracy of the not-so-random acid attack, and the high stakes truly test how far they're willing to go for friendship and love.

Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Diary of a Witness. Knopf, 2009. 208p. Gr. 7-10.
Best friends Will and Ernie have always been close; they're both bullied (Will is skinny and nerdy while Ernie is the "fat kid"), but they have each other. When Will's brother drowns on a fishing trip and his father is arrested, the trauma pushes Will over the edge, and Ernie has to learn how to help someone you truly care about when you don't know what to do.

Jaden, Denise. Never Enough. Simon Pulse, 2012. 400p. Gr. 7-10.
Little sister Loann wants to be just like her sister Claire: popular, pretty, and perfect. When lunchroom drama and a crush on Claire's ex push Loann into Claire's world, she slowly discovers that "perfect" for Claire means dangerous anorexia. Now Loann feels utterly conflicted: how can she help her sister when she doesn't understand her? Can she save their relationship and her sister in time, and who is she if not Claire's adoring disciple?

Kessler, Jackie Morse. Hunger. Graphia/Houghton, 2010. 180 p. Gr. 9-12.
Seventeen-year-old anorexic Lisa tries to overdose one night—until Death interrupts her with a new job as Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now Lisa must negotiate her days hiding her anorexia from her family, best friend and boyfriend, and her nights thundering across the world, using her powers as Famine for destruction—or can she use the apocalyptic forces at her disposal for good?

Klam, Cheryl. The Pretty One. Delacorte, 2008. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
Megan has never been the "pretty one," and she's fine with being the techie sister to Lucy's theatre star—until a freak car accident and the resulting reconstructive surgery transform her into the gorgeous leading lady she never wanted to be. Pushed into the spotlight, Megan has to learn that being "the pretty one" comes with hidden costs she may not want to pay.

Lange, Erin Jade. Butter. Bloomsbury, 2012. 304 p. Gr. 7-10.
"Butter" is sick of everything: being obese, being bullied, and being alive. He thus announces he will literally eat himself to death live on the Internet on New Year's Eve. When his website skyrockets him into the popular crowd, Butter must decide: are the new friendships worth living for, or will not going through with it plunge him further into ridicule and torment?

Na, An. The Fold. Putnam, 2008. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
Joyce has always felt like "the ugly sister" compared to her perfect older sister Helen. When their aunt wins some money in the lottery, she buys every family member a special present—and offers to pay for Joyce to have plastic surgery on her eyes to get "the fold,” making her eyes look less Korean and more European. As Joyce watches each family member suffer (often comically) from her aunt's gifts, she has to decide: will "the fold" help her get the guy and become the "pretty sister," or will it end up more trouble than it's worth?

Padian, Maria. Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best. Knopf, 2011. 352p. Gr. 7-10.
Best friends and Jersey girls Henry and Eva go off to prestigious summer camps (ballet for Eva and tennis for Henry), where the pressure of upping their game and making it on their own pushes Eva into full-blown OCD and an eating disorder. Henry, on her own for the first time, has to choose: devote herself to the sport she loves so much (even if it means pushing away her father) or sacrifice everything to help Eva, who (along with her family) refuses to accept she has a problem at all?

Schabas, Martha. Various Positions. Foster/Farrar, 2012. 336 p. Gr. 9-12.
Georgia loves her new prestigious ballet school. It’s all dance, all the time, without the family issues of her home life or the uncomfortable sexual forwardness of her public school. Dance school is full of issues she never thought she'd encounter, though, including friends with eating disorders, sexual pressure from her peers, and the special attention from her director, Roderick. Her attempts to gain his favor are completely misguided, yet they’re understandable from a teen girl negotiating her changing body and the power she can wield.

Vail, Rachel. Gorgeous. HarperTeen, 2009. 288p. Gr. 7-10.
Second in the trilogy of the Avery sisters (which began with Lucky), Gorgeous tells the story of Allison, the plain-Jane middle child, who sells her cell phone to the devil to become beautiful. But trying to "have it all"—a modeling job, handsome crush, and family support—isn't all it's cracked up to be, and Allison soon discovers that being "gorgeous" comes with problems that may be too big for her to handle.

Willner-Pardo, Gina. Prettiest Doll. Clarion, 2012. 234p. Gr. 6-9.
Thirteen-year-old Olivia is dissatisfied with being a perfect pageant princess and wants to be more than just "pretty." When she meets fifteen-year-old Dan, who ran away from his own pushy mother and the pressure to change his appearance, Olivia takes a stand and runs with him. Along the way, she learns how to be something more underneath all the pretty pageant glitz.

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