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Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women Paperback – Bargain Price, September 2, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425223361
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A long overdue takedown of our culture’s unhealthy obsession with physical appearances—and what it’s doing to our kids.”
—Arianna Huffington

“Smart and spirited…thought-provoking reading.”
New York Times

“An engaging and heartbreaking account of the tragic circumstances girls and women find themselves in today as they struggle to find a body they can feel secure with.”
—Susie Orbach, author of Fat Is a Feminist Issue

“Fresh analysis…will bring insight to a whole new group of teenagers and young women.”
—Naomi Wolf

“Heartbreaking…Martin explores the forces that drive young women to sacrifice themselves on the altar of perfection.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Courtney E. Martin, M.A., received degrees from Barnard College and New York University.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 8 customer reviews
Martin's writing is also fantastic.
Heather O'Roark
I bought this book on a whim after reading a blog post by Courtney Martin.
Suzy Goldenkranz
So for those father's who are raising a daughter, read this.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Heather O'Roark on February 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Martin brings an intelligent, spot-on, and completely fresh analysis to the issues of eating disorders/disordered eating, body image, and self-esteem in young women. She seamlessly weaves true stories of women and girls she personally knows and/or met and interviewed for the purpose of writing the book with facts, statistics, and quotes from tons of other sources. Her research is meticulous, and the personal stories are interesting and compelling. Martin's writing is also fantastic. I tore through this nonfiction book faster than I can read a lot of fiction - her writing flowed so well and the content was incredibly fascinating.

Also, if you read other reviews of the book, not everyone agrees with me about how fantastic it is. So, yeah, the book resonated with me and with my personal experiences. A lot. I do not have an eating disorder, but I have plenty of experience with disordered eating, feeling like crap about oneself, comparing oneself to others constantly, etc. Personally and otherwise. So I get it. I get what the book is saying and I truly related to the stories within it. That is most likely a large part of why I liked it so much. But regardless of your personal experiences, I believe Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters is a terrific read.

I absolutely, 100% cannot recommend this book enough. If you are female, and/or if you have a daughter, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters is a MUST-read. Truly. This was one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nikki on December 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book feels really personal, as though you're having an intimate conversation. The research is also top notch. It's a great book to read if you are a woman and have ever been insecure about your body, especially if you are under 30. While the author and I would have run in different social circles in school, I really identified with the issues facing young women today.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Suze on February 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I found the author's insights to be a little vacuous. Her angle (for a large portion of the book) is that there haven't been many books about eating disorders in 'our generation.' That is, most of the other books (autobiographical or otherwise) aren't up to date.

I can agree with that, but she falls short of saying much else that hasn't already been said (for example, "Gaining: the Truth About Life After Eating Disorders" has a lot of the same study data, and gives pretty similar personal accounts).

She references contemporary problems, cites works like "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture," (a book I would recommend), but doesn't go much further than that.
My overall impression of "Perfect Girls" was just, 'hey, I'm a 20-something, I'm aware there are cultural, social, psychological and physiological issues related to the prevalence of eating disorders, and here's some data from other people that may or may not be relevant.' I don't think this is a badly written book, or that it doesn't provide solid information about eating disorders, but the only NEW thing it has to offer is it's publishing date.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on April 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you read this book with an open mind, there is not one person who wouldn't benefit from it. It's an in-depth description/study on some of the main topics circulating around eating disorders. Courtney structured the book topic by topic or rather, chapter by chapter, and for each new section she made sure to mention some real life stories alongside how people are handling or not handling it and how it affects the young girls suffering from these disorders or are bordering that uncompromisable leap. She does so in a very respectful manner because stepping on anyone's toes, especially in a matter so difficult and sensitive as eating disorders, is no where near helpful or motivational.

Some of the topics focused on are the father-daughter/mother-daughter connection, the media's influence, sexual drive in correlation to society, spirituality, the college years, the years after college and many more. Overall I highly recommend this book for anyone because the information is vital in helping everyone to be culturally competent when it comes to eating disorders. People will learn that there is no rhyme or reason when finding a causation and how the real topic at hand is not the outer display of disarray, but the inner turmoil paired up with that drive to be "perfect."

Any downfalls?
--She makes slight mention of men suffering from eating disorders, but it is definitely a book primarily based around girls and women who struggle with them. Yet this is not to say men can't read this book and take anything away from it--that is definitely NOT the case. Society, as a whole, influences what is around them, and as much as people (both male and female) like to think, eating disorders are not just a problem for one half of the population.
Read more ›
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More About the Author

Courtney E. Martin is the award-winning author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women called "a hardcover punch in the gut" by Arianna Huffington and "a smart and spirited rant that makes for thought-provoking reading" by the New York Times.

She is also a widely-read freelance journalist and regular blogger for Feministing. She is a Senior Correspondent for The American Prospect Online and her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others.

In addition, Courtney consults with social justice organizations throughout the nation, including the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Council for Research on Women, and the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict. She has conducted workshops for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty throughout the nation.

Courtney also co-wrote the life story of AIDS activist Marvelyn Brown, called The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful and (HIV) Positive. She is currently at work on a book for Beacon Press about ten people under 35 creating innovative social change and an anthology for Seal Press about the moments that made young women feminists.

In addition, she has essays in many anthologies, including A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox (Oxford University Press), and Declare Yourself: Fifty American Talk about Why Voting Matters (Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins).

She has been on Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, the O'Reilly Factor, and MSNBC, and spoken on radio programs and at colleges, non-profits, and parenting organizations across the nation.

Courtney has an M.A. from the Gallatin School at New York University in writing and social change and a B.A. from Barnard College in political science and sociology. She is a Woodhull fellow and part of the Progressive Women's Voices Project at the Women's Media Center. She was awarded the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics in 2002 and was a Resident at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center this summer. Courtney also founded The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, just named one of the NEW York 100.

When she isn't working, which is not nearly enough of the time, she is walking in Brooklyn's Prospect Park or conspiring to create unselfconscious dance parties with her amazing friends.

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