CM May 24, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 32

image The Perfect Gymnast.

Michele Martin Bossley.
Toronto: James Lorimer & Company ("Sports" series), 1996. 76 pp, paper. $8.95.
ISBN: 1-55028-510-6.

Grades 3 - 8 / Ages 8 - 13.
Review by Sara Brodie.



     Bulimia Nervosa, a disorder in which overeating alternates with self-induced vomiting, fasting, etc.
     Vomiting. Overeating. The words burned themselves into my brain. Hilary had thrown up at the competition. She'd said it was nerves, but she'd acted so weird -- hardly nervous at all and angry when I wanted to get Pam to help. What if she's thrown up on purpose? She was practically starving herself at school, but she wasn't losing weight. Suppose she was stuffing herself in secret and then making herself get sick?

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD ABBY BERKOWSKI has recently moved with her family to Calgary and is having trouble meeting new friends. Abby is so painfully shy of meeting new people and trying new things that her mother forces her to join a local gymnastics club to boost her confidence and help her make new friends.

     Instead of being the fumbling, awkward klutz she was positive she would turn out to be, Abby discovers she has some athletic talent. Slowly, Abby gains more confidence in herself and even makes some friends, including the top gymnast in the club, Hilary Chen.

     Abby begins to notice how strange Hilary's eating habits are. Hilary alternates between eating very little and worrying about her weight one day, and wolfing down massive amounts of food the next. Eventually, Abby realizes Hilary has a serious eating disorder -- bulimia. When confronted, Hilary swears Abby to secrecy and insists she has to keep thin to make it to the top in gymnastics. Abby is torn between maintaining her friendship with Hilary and helping a very sick friend.

     Anorexia and bulimia are all-too-common problems in the athletic world. A 1992 Globe & Mail article states that one in three female athletes will suffer an eating disorder. Who can forget the fate of young U.S. gymnast Christy Henrich, who died after a five-year battle with anorexia and bulimia? Christy, four feet, ten inches tall, and only ninety pounds, was told by a U.S. gymnastics judge that she would have to lose weight if she hoped to make the 1988 Olympic team. When she died in 1994, Christy weighed sixty-one pounds.

     The Perfect Gymnast will introduce to the young reader the subject of eating disorders and the pressure often felt by athletes to be unrealistically thin in an honest, sensitive manner. The novel's characters are appealing because they are regular, everyday kids attempting to deal with a tough problem, and young female readers will find Bossley's novel a welcome addition to the sports stories genre. The Perfect Gymnast is fast-paced, informative, and -- at only seventy-six pages -- attractive even to reluctant readers.

     The Perfect Gymnast is a recent addition to Lorimer's "Sports Stories" and Bossley's second title in the series. Her first, Breathing Not Required, was reviewed in the February 23, 1996 issue of CM.


Sara Brodie presently works for Dalhousie University Libraries in Halifax. She has recently returned from New York where she worked for the Brooklyn Public Library.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364