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Skinny [Paperback]

Ibi Kaslik
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 22 2005

GISELLE IS 22, a top medical student and a functioning anorexic. Except now, driven by the pressures of school and her late father’s rejection, Giselle is no longer functioning. Her sister Holly, a 14-year-old track star, can see that Giselle is going to have to confront a few things if she wants to get better. It seems easier for the athletic Holly-she sweats through life’s problems—but now even she feels burdened by the past.

Ibi Kaslik’s vivid novel captures with devastating honesty the story of two sisters struggling to come to terms with their adult selves. Edgy and powerful, Skinny is a sometimes gritty and often wryly funny look at growing up and the hunger for acceptance that drives us all.


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Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up–In her first year of med school, 22-year-old Giselle Vasco seems to have it all together. But a lifetime of bitter relations with her deceased father is slowly catching up, and she falls into a downward spiral that her mother and her younger sister, Holly, are powerless to stop. Skinny, though, is much more than a study of one young woman's battle with anorexia. What starts as Giselle's story quickly develops into a rich and powerful tapestry of a whole family. When Thomas and Vesla Vasco emigrated from Hungary in the 1970s to escape communism's rigid caste system, Vesla was already pregnant, and Thomas had always questioned whether the baby was his. His doubts color his whole relationship with his older daughter, and when Holly is born eight years later, the divide becomes more apparent. Holly, a natural athlete, struggles to understand and avert her sister's self-loathing. The chapters alternate between the sisters' voices, and the ability to see the events unfolding through their eyes adds a depth and a poignancy that would not have been possible with a single narrator. Kaslik's first novel hits the mark with characters with whom teens will empathize, and tackles a relevant and painful subject with grace.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

"I was born between the old world and the new, five months after my parents came to this country." At 22, Gigi still feels caught between worlds. After hospital treatment for anorexia, she leaves medical school and moves in with her Hungarian mother and eighth-grade sister, Holly. The sisters' distinct voices narrate alternating chapters in this moody, experimental debut. It's refreshing that Gigi's anorexia and briefly described lesbian romance are treated as only parts of a larger story, and the girls' grief following their father's death and the pressures they face growing up with immigrant parents add depth to the novel. Unfortunately, Kaslik's exploration of issues spins in too many directions to make a cohesive whole. In addition, passages that read almost like spoken-word poetry and spliced-in narratives from unidentified voices are lyrical, but they are occasionally more distracting than effective. Still, this is an ambitious, often moving offering, and older readers will likely connect with the raw emotions and intelligent insights into a family's secrets, pain, and enduring love. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Aug. 25 2007
Format:Paperback
Giselle is an intelligent, over-achieving medical student who is self-destructive and tormented by her relationship with her dead father. Holly is a blossoming young track star that struggles academically for several reasons, including the fact that she is hearing impaired. Giselle has been hospitalized and forced to return home to recover from anorexia. SKINNY tells the story of the effects of Giselle's illness on these two sisters now that Giselle has come back to the family home. The sisters take turns narrating the story.

Each chapter told from Giselle's perspective is laced with medical textbook excerpts that hold keys to the story. Holly's chapters are often brief and yet very poignant. The book details both sisters learning their family history and struggling with its effect on their current lives. The dialogue between the sisters is very well written, as are their inner monologues.

This book has many subplots and some come together in the end and others are not tied up so neatly. At times it feels as though Kaslik has attempted to write two completely different books about the same characters and weaved them together and yet, overall, the story is incredibly moving and emotional. Each sister's words force the reader to empathize with them despite the fact that they often seem to be battling against each other.

Overall, Kaslik has written a remarkable book about the devastating effects of eating disorders on both the person suffering from the illness and those around them. This book is incredibly weighty and touches on some incredibly intense issues at times, and would likely pose a challenge to even some of the strongest high school readers. But their efforts would not be wasted, as it is an incredibly satisfying read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars thumbs up Aug. 20 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
really good book. dark & intense but so good. makes you think.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Winner, hands down Aug. 2 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
What a heartbreaking work of extraordinary talent. This book will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you scream all at the same time. The author does a great job at allowing the reader into both Giselle and Holly's minds, helping to understand the state both characters are in. A great read!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only Ok March 26 2009
By Ladybug
Format:Paperback
This novel was not what I was expecting. It was somewhat interesting in places, but overall, not great.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty solid up until the end Nov. 7 2006
By L. Boswell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Skinny is the story of two sisters; Giselle, a college-aged med student who has anorexia, and her 8th grade sister, Holly. The chapters alternate narrators to the effect that you get a feeling for how Giselle's anorexia influences both her and those around her.

Giselle's chapters, interspersed with snippets from her med school textbooks, feature a person torn by her own desire for perfection and permanently wounded by a father who openly showed preference for her younger sister. The snippets from the medical textbook act almost as subheads for the pages that follow, and sometimes I found them to be too "artsy." Like something a grad student in a creative writing class would do to make her story seem "different" even if it doesn't really do anything to provide insight. I get the meaning they're often supposed to have, but that's kind of the point. Either the meaning was too obvious, and therefore cheap and unnecessary, or the snippets didn't really seem to have much of a purpose at all. I also failed to see the purpose in her new boyfriend who runs in and out of the book--the one who is so enamored by Giselle's anorexic face that he ignores a broken wrist to go get coffee with her. I feel like the author wanted me to like him, but I was repelled by his tendency for addiction and his dependence on someone who clearly doesn't have enough stamina to even stand on her own. I just kept picturing them, ten years down the road, living out of dirty motel rooms and trying to scrape together enough money for some meth, or something. Yeck.

Holly's chapters almost perfectly capture the inner struggles and angst of being a young teenager. Of course, Holly has a little more on her plate than most kids, her sister has an eating disorder, her father is dead and she is half-deaf. Regardless, the relationship she maintains with her sister is touching in its intimacy and realistic in its acidity.

Sometimes the father's preference for Holly seemed a bit extreme. Like he'd basically hurl Giselle in front of a bus because she was standing in front of Holly when he wanted to hug her. I guessed fairly early on why he was drawn to the younger sibling, but that still wouldn't account for a human being completely and brutally shutting out a child.

All-in-all I'd say this was a very well-written and engaging read. The only part I'm confused about is the ending. See, I read all the pages in the book, but I still didn't get to it. I don't need everything to tie up neatly, like Giselle gains 80 lbs and gets married and gets her doctorate and Holly becomes Student of the Year, but I just wished for a little more epiphany and a little less dreariness.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Nov. 2 2006
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Giselle is an intelligent, over-achieving medical student who is self-destructive and tormented by her relationship with her dead father. Holly is a blossoming young track star that struggles academically for several reasons, including the fact that she is hearing impaired. Giselle has been hospitalized and forced to return home to recover from anorexia. SKINNY tells the story of the effects of Giselle's illness on these two sisters now that Giselle has come back to the family home. The sisters take turns narrating the story.

Each chapter told from Giselle's perspective is laced with medical textbook excerpts that hold keys to the story. Holly's chapters are often brief and yet very poignant. The book details both sisters learning their family history and struggling with its effect on their current lives. The dialogue between the sisters is very well written, as are their inner monologues.

This book has many subplots and some come together in the end and others are not tied up so neatly. At times it feels as though Kaslik has attempted to write two completely different books about the same characters and weaved them together and yet, overall, the story is incredibly moving and emotional. Each sister's words force the reader to empathize with them despite the fact that they often seem to be battling against each other.

Overall, Kaslik has written a remarkable book about the devastating effects of eating disorders on both the person suffering from the illness and those around them. This book is incredibly weighty and touches on some incredibly intense issues at times, and would likely pose a challenge to even some of the strongest high school readers. But their efforts would not be wasted, as it is an incredibly satisfying read. It is accessible on several levels, so if a younger reader were to read this book they would likely take something from it as well, but revisiting the book later would likely reveal a more complex set of issues and themes.

Reviewed by: Allison M. Rotonda
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heartbreaking, sad, quiet, cold May 2 2012
By Ellie Kate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is sad in a quiet, sort of cold way. The end is absolutely heartbreaking, and the journey to get there is in many ways even worse. The excerpts from medical texts complements the emotional side of the eating disorder with chilling medical accounts of various other things that can go wrong. The relationships in the novel and the way they are expressed through the physical behaviors of the characters (Giselle's eating disorder, Holly's running, etc) are palpable and on-point.
Most important: this book is very, very triggering. I read this during the depths of my eating disorder, so it didn't really provoke much in me that was worse than where I already was. However, if you're attempting to recover from ED or are triggered easily, maybe stay away from this for a while. However, it's worth noting that this is the first book I've read that has been able to cover an eating disorder in-depth without seeming like a how-to guide. There was no process-based description of any behavior, no intake, no measurements, no numbers. This is a much-needed approach to such a misunderstood disease; anyone who thinks an eating disorder is about numbers, sizes or anything else so superficial should be required to read this. In fact, anyone who misunderstands eating disorders in any way, or thinks they understand them (you really, really cannot understand an eating disorder until you've had one) should read this book. The snippets of "dialogue" where Giselle's eating disorder is speaking to her, taunting her, could literally have been ripped from my head. Even the comments and insults levied by the eating disorder that seem tangential (e.g. Giselle's eating disordered voice yelling at her that she is an "exhibitionist" and a "slut") are relevant and sadly, completely accurate to the eating disorder experience. Giselle notes that nothing compares to "the abuse that *she* could levy" and truly, nothing does.
If you care about someone with an eating disorder, read this book. This is a more accurate picture of what she (or he) is going through than any psychological publishing or article you could read, and you'll find yourself much more invested in the fate of Giselle--and the Giselle in your own life.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From the mind of anorexic Oct. 5 2011
By Lacey Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
First thoughts:

Hmmm, I had picked this book up to give it a try, hadn't really read much on it but when reading the summary it piped my interest. And from the very first page I was sucked into a world where I could barely breathe. The authors attention to detail really opened up a new way to connect the character of the book with the reader. The writing was very poetic and deep, something that I loved a lot. There were some weak spots, spots I wished could haven been different but in all honesty I'd have to be the character to do that. It was indeed a really emotional and heart constricting read.

Summary:

This story takes place between two girls, each chapter alternates the point of view. The first view of Giselle who is a med student and has an eating disorder and the second being from her sister Holly who is having a hard time dealing with her sisters problem.

Between the two you are being taken into their world where they lost their father, the same father who hated Giselle and loved Holly. Being mistreated by her father Giselle couldn't do anything but become a total wreck, she had to grasp onto something she could control and that happened to be her eating habits. She thinks her sister has the perfect body and hers being a bloated mess. She's always envied her sister. So she has this double side to her, the other half that's telling her to stop eating, to look in the mirror and see how ugly she is. Giselle can't do anything but listen.

Soon after being released from the hospital for her disorder her life gets even worse, she still doesn't eat, her family is falling apart and she feels she's losing anyone she ever thought loved her. And Holly is being trampled along the way, she used to look up to her sister but now she has to be the one in charge. Can the two of them get their lives untwisted before its too late?

Last thoughts:

A very deep and serious read. Not really a book for young readers but for those who think wrongly of themselves and think that no one could ever possibly love them. I loved the twisted double edge sword concept in this book and will never forget that last image in the book. Not everything can end well, not every book has a happily ever after. Kaslik is a very talented author and I can't wait to see some other books she's come out with.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I want to be Skinny April 26 2008
By L.N.S Holt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I had a best friend who was Giselle. Even had an Eve who left her. I still blame "Eve" for why my friend was the way she was. I pulled away because I didn't want to deal with what Holly did. My friend got better and she struggles every day. She even read this book. When I told her I was reading it, she told me I would love it. Told me she was happy when I told her I was proud of all the progress she has made. That she now has someone she loves who loves her who is not going to hurt her and makes her stronger. I would like to think I used to be that person for her....I used to be. I swear this book is written about my friend and I am glad she made it through the storm.

I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. I would take breaks at work not to eat or get away from the job but to go to the lunch room and ignore everything, my phone or my radio going off of someone who needed me, just to read these words. I could never do this to my family but at the same time, I can relate to the voice in Giselle's head telling her she is awful even when she's not.....even though I am actually awful.

Anyway, read this book. You probably know someone who is going through this even if you don't know it. Please don't be afraid to give them the help they need because it may be too late if you don't.
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