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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review

Weighing it up by Ali Valenzuela
Hodder Children's Books; (Mar 2009);
ISBN13: 9780340988404

Alana Hebenton

Weighing it up follows Ali Valenzuela’s 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 ‘didn’t require any company.’

Ali’s exercise then leads to obsessive healthy eating and the constant monitoring of her weight, setting herself increasingly lower weight goals.

‘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. Ali’s illness ultimately leads to her hospitalisation, where her diary entries continue to chronicle her emotional and often disturbing battle with the disease.

The story doesn’t end with a Hollywood happy ending and conversely doesn’t 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 up’s real account of a person’s battle with anorexia provides readers with a deep insight into a disease, which is so often misunderstood as a person’s simple yearn to lose a bit of weight. The uncensored nature of the text’s 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 text’s inclusion of the author’s 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 alteration.

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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