Title: My Feet Aren’t Ugly
Author: Debra Beck
Publisher: Beaufort Books, April 2007
Genre: Self-help, Youth nonfiction
If Debra Beck ever meets the guy who told her, at 15, that her feet were ugly, I hope she thanks him for us. Because if it hadn’t been for that mean remark then, we might not have My Feet Aren’t Ugly: A Girl’s Guide to Loving Herself from the Inside Out now.
Debra’s goal for writing this 130-page self-help book for teen girls was to give them a hand in achieving the self-esteem and healing she missed when she was their age. The long first chapter talks about learning to like oneself by doing things like living with integrity, finishing projects, taking care of personal health and appearance, and being a good friend. The following eight chapters relate that foundation of healthy self-esteem to the many other challenges modern teen girls face in areas of conquering fears, risking creativity, maintaining physical appearance (including a discussion of eating disorders), encountering drugs, resisting suicide, dealing with the physical changes that accompany adolescence, and developing a healthy outlook toward sex. She also lists web links to help-agencies in appropriate sections.
Debra’s understanding of and love for teens shines through. From a girlhood plagued with low self-esteem, the mothering of two teens of her own, and continuing to work with young women in Spirited Youth comes a voice that is part big sister, part mentor, part cheerleader and always encourager. In a warm, chatty style she shares her own struggles, lists fears, tells lots of stories from her life, and through it all challenges girls to be their own person.
The inviting cover, cartoon-type illustrations (by Maggie Anthony - bottom), and Debra’s own occasional lapse into humorous girl-speak (e.g. talking about street drugs: "One big problem is that a lot of them are made in someone’s lab at home mixing the ingredients [a guy probably high out of his gourd]") make the book a lot of fun. It is interactive too with numerous journal prompts, lots of space to write, lists, and quizzes sprinkled amongst blocks of text.
If the book seemed weak in one area it was in the discussion of spiritual health. Described as "moving forward, evolving and growing . . . . taking care of business" the subject appeared little different from all that had already been said about gaining healthy self-esteem on one's own – as opposed to joining with God or a higher being in this quest, which is what I expected to find when I read "spiritual health." However, the way Beck doesn’t take sides on religion may turn out to be an asset, in that the book’s neutrality would make it easily adaptable to girls of many faiths.
All in all, I would have no problem recommending this book to any 10- to 16-year-old girl – or her caregiver. For as well as providing a great way for teen girls to gain confidence and a sense of who they are on their own, I think the book could be an excellent discussion starter between girls and parents. I wish I’d had it when I was a thoroughly self-conscious and self-loathing teenager.
This review is part of Non-Fiction Monday.
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