Child & Adolescent Development: Overview

Review of "Kim: Empty Inside"

By Beatrice Sparks
Avon Books, 2002
Review by Su Terry on Nov 5th 2002
Kim: Empty Inside

Kim: Empty Inside: The Diary of an Anonymous Teenager by “Anonymous Teenager” and edited by Beatrice Sparks is another volume in the Spark’s gallery of “diary formats” works on teen social problems. Kim: Empty Inside deals with the issue of eating disorders.

Kim: Empty Inside is set on the UCLA campus.  Seventeen-year old “Anonymous” aka “Kim” is in her freshman year. In order to achieve the dream of her life, she needs to reduce to a weight necessary to gain entrance on the UCLA gymnast team. Once on the team, however, she must continue to maintain the reduced weight. With the advice from her fellow gymnasts, Kim begins a pattern of eating and purging in order to maintain her low weight. Kim will soon learn that through her radical efforts at losing weight, she will lose more than just pounds.

Kim: Empty Inside is written in the format of a diary covering a year in the life of Jennie. Sparks does diaries well, very well. It is in fact, the diary format that brought Sparks fame and fortune with her Go Ask Alice (1971). Since 1971, she has “edited” a number of other teen diaries on topics ranging from pregnancy, cults, gambling, HIV/AIDS, and street gangs. The diaries and “true-life accounts” are supposedly garnered from Spark’s clinical work with troubled teens. There is, however, some speculation that Spark’s books are not real diaries, but actually composite of her cases or even possibly completely fictional. It is not for me to debate this issue here, but as a review, I feel it is my responsibility to mention it. Either way, her books present very realistic pictures of what teenagers might experience in rather difficult situations. For Sparks willingness to confront these very controversial topics in a realistic manner, for this alone, Sparks deserves praise.

Kim: Empty Inside is an excellent book. It goes into the changing thought patterns of an individual with an eating disorder. Through the use of journaling, the book illustrates the slow but steady change in the thinking of an individual with an eating disorder. The changes and her growing obsession is slow and subtle. This is what makes it so believable. [The “Question and Answers” section at the end of the book describes characteristics for anorexia and for bulimia.]

Beatrice Sparks is a family and adolescent therapist. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Behavior. Her books have won the American Library Association Young Adult Notable Award, the Christopher Medal, School Library Journal Best Books, and Quick Pick for Recommended Reading by the American Library Association. Dr. Sparks was a 1996 National Book Award Judge for Young People's Literature. Her first venture into teen literature was Go Ask Alice (1971) that became an instant bestseller and was made into a TV movie. She has since edited many diary format works on topics such as AIDS (It Happened to Nancy, 1994), cults & the occult (Jay’s Journal, 1979), runaways (Almost Lost, 1996), teen pregnancy (Annie's Baby, 1988), and sexual abuse by a teacher (Leslie’s Journal, 2001). Kim: Empty Inside is her latest work.

Kim: Empty Inside is guaranteed to hold teen readers’ attention. This book does not have graphic language, sexual description, or violence and is, in my opinion, appropriate for young teens and mature pre-teens. I would highly recommend this book.

 

© 2002 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.

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