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Girls on the Edge - Another Book Review

Yes, I have yet another book review. But soon I won't have time to read much (for myself), so I do try to pack them in over the summer.

This book, "Girls on the Edge," by Leonard Sax, was given to me by my brother-in-law last week, and I read it in a couple of hours. I was that absorbed. (And it's not long!)

Sax has written several best-selling books, but this was the first one I'd read by him. I was mostly curious as a parent of a 9-year-old girl, to see what he had to say about the challenges facing girls today. But I believe it is also extremely helpful for teachers, to inform our understanding of what our kids are dealing with outside of academics.

In this book, he chronicles four main factors influencing they mental and physical health of our young women today:

1) Sexual Identity - Girls trying to look older at a younger age
2) Obsessions - fixation on body, sports etc. due to a lack of strong sense of self
3) Environmental Toxins - Exposure to drug/alcohol abuse, anxiety, stress factors
4) Cyberbubble -The constant texting and messaging which causes teens/pre-teens to disengage from their true selves

As to the first topic, sexual identity, he does a TERRIFIC job of distinguishing between sexuality (a girl's growing understanding of her own body and what gives her pleasure) versus "sexualization" (performing/dressig for the pleasure of others). This articulation was EXTREMELY helpful for me as I try to navigate puberty with my daughter over the next few years. I DO want her to learn about and enjoy her own body, but WITHOUT feeling she has to perform/dress/be thin-pretty for others.....

The second topic, obsessions, helped me to see how dangerous fixating on one thing can be for teens. An obsession with FaceBook, or a sport, or an image, can become a false anchor a girl will cling to in lieu of doing the hard work of discovering her true self. Sax makes a good case that Eating Disorders, Cutting, Perfectionism, and Obsessive Athletes (to name a few) are all just symptoms of a malady of the soul - girls who cling to something outside themselves as an identity because at their centers they don't really know who they are.

The third factor, environmental toxins, was so well-documented, especially the research on BPA (bisphenol-A) that I will NEVER put my tupperware in my dishwasher EVER again! And no more plastic water bottles!!!! BPA mimics estrogen in the female body and has been implicated in early-onset of menarche, thus depriving girls of precious childhood years.... You will be shocked. Again, LOTS of great scientific studies cited on this one.

The fourth factor, the cyberbubble, ties in closely with Obsessions. For example, the data on FaceBook use was enlightening, to say the least. I had NO IDEA so many girls were spending literally HOURS maintaining their FaceBook accounts- at the expense of doing homework, and even of spending real face-time with friends. (Again, this ties into the theme of "performing for others" - all that energy devoted to maintaining a certain "image"....)

Indeed, my brother-in-law was so disturbed by the Facebook research that he has promised my niece (a rising Junior in high school) that if she stays completely off of Facebook,he'll give her a car at graduation! (A used one, but still....) After reading the book, I'm seriously considering the same....

In conclusion, as a science teacher, I was particularly impressed by Sax's use of exhaustive citations of the scientific literature. (He puts his footnotes and citations at the back of the book, and they occupy a good quarter of the total pages in the book). Whether you are a parent or a teacher of a young girl, I highly recommend this book. This is a book to be believed, and to be acted upon. (Did I mention Sax provides many practical suggestions for parents throughout the book?)

Anyway, since I am not a professional book critic, I encourage you to check out some "real" reviews on at

I've also posted a link under my "essential reading" list.



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