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Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
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Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  21,947 ratings  ·  965 reviews
#1 New York Times Bestseller

The groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: what is happening to the selves of adolescent girls?

As a therapist, Mary Pipher was becoming frustrated with the growing problems among adolescent girls. Why were so many of them turning to therapy in the first place? Why had these lovely and promising hu
Paperback, 293 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Riverhead Books (first published 1994)
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Suzanne Evans
Aug 20, 2007 Suzanne Evans rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone... Ehh, just girls.
My mom gave me this book when I was like 12 or 13... this was only the beginning of the self help slurry of books, clippings, etc that my mom would throw my way. As an adolescent girl (who this book is geared towards) I hid the book under my bed and read other bull shit things like the other books you will see on my list (read in the early to mid 90s). Thinking I knew what was best for me, as girls do at that age, I continued to resist my mother's consistent pushing me to read this book. She eve ...more
While this book had a whole bunch of interesting anecdotes, there were nothing more than anecdotes. The fact that a bunch of her patients manifested particular characteristics doesn't lead to the ability to generalize about adolescent trends in general, as Pipher does here. On the contrary, it's just as reasonable to believe that her patients, many of whom presumably came to her through referrals from other patients, were a self-selecting group, each of whom referred people to Pipher because she ...more
Jan 27, 2010 Caris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
When I look at my daughter, I see a beautiful little human who means more to me than anything I could have ever imagined. She smiles at me when she wakes up. She holds my finger as we watch TV. She explains the most elaborate and convoluted things to me in a baby language I can't quite comprehend but certainly get the gist of. I have an intense feeling of responsibility for her well being, which, I assume, will last for the rest of my life.

The thought that she will grow up causes me physical pai
Holly Bond
Oct 10, 2007 Holly Bond rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents & social workers
Shelves: non-fiction
The most important thing about this book, that I will never forget, is how well it illustrates the shift from a bubbly little girl to a depressed/angry teen and how the world just does everything it can to rob a little girl of her self esteem. That's not a blaming statement, but just an observation, that girls today are taking an emotional beating at almost every turn, and this book is a call to action. I recommend that you follow it up with Ophelia Speaks. If you have a daughter, please read th ...more
This is a biased and thoughtless review, based on vague memories of a cranky adolescent's insensitive snap judgment, so you shouldn't pay any attention to it. It's definitely more of a statement about me than it is about the book, which I don't really remember anyway.

I read this in the mid-nineties when it came out, and I remember feeling, as a teenage girl, annoyed and offended. I felt at the time that it was making too much of girls' helplessness and sort of encouraging us to feel sorry for ou
When I first read this, I was very convinced of the premise--that girls do great as they move forward in elementary school, but sometime between 4th and 8th grade the harsh reality hits them that they are going to be objectified and relegated to second-class status in this male-oriented world. As a result, you see a drop-off in vivacity, creativity, and individuality. Instead of the former spunk and enthusiasm of girlhood, you see young women who shrink from the public eye, who retreat into depr ...more
Hmmmm....very mixed feelings about this one.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls covers a lot of the same ground as Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. We read about adolescent girls struggling with depression, eating disorders, self-mutilation, premature sexual involvement, etc. Both Mary Pipher and Miriam Grossman are mental health practitioners who treat these girls and view their difficulties less
Apr 22, 2008 Carrie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who care about young women
Recommended to Carrie by: Camille
There were some good things I took away from this book. Oddly enough the most important things I learned is to keep my daughters room filled with journals and writing tools. :) Wow, I wish I would have used (or would use now) writing as a tool to stay mentally healthy. The other is to keep her busy in things that make her strong in, body, mind, and spirit.

Another thing I walked away with is that there are strengths and weaknesses in every form of parenting. It made me want to hug the stuffing ou
The author has good intentions and I agree with her on some things but…. This was horrible. I don’t even know where to begin! I really don’t. I understand parents wanting to protect their kids from these kinds of things but I hope any parent does not live by this book. Please do more research. A LOT!

I don’t know if it was just me but the way Mary worded some things, it came off as she blamed men for this problem. WHATEVER. This just reminds me of a joke that Katt Williams said about woman blami
I thought this book was really really interesting. It is about the negative effects our culture has on teenage girls (too much emphasis on beauty, too much encouragement to be passive in order to please others, etc.). One of my favorite points she made is that our society spends tons of time and money educating women on self-defense, but wouldn't it make much more sense to educate young men on how to be respectful and non-violent towards women?
I do have some reservations about the book, though:
It's been a while since I read this and was reminded about it via a thread on this very website about how women feel about barbie dolls and the like. The author is a psychologist who works with adolescent girls and suggests that there is a window (somewhere between 9 and 13 if I remember correctly) where young girls will either choose academic, athletic, or artistic endeavors--or boys. Girls learn to like boys early on (way before they learn to like girls) and an unfortunate consequence of this ...more
Makes a valid point or two but I remember being insulted by this as an adolescent girl. Specifically at the point when Pipher holds up a daddy-knows-best fundie family as raising a totally well-adjusted teenager. I'd rather be a maladjusted junkie slut than live in the midwest with my nice, cool, cryptofascist hard-on for jeezy parents, thanks. This should be on the "feminism, question mark" shelf.
I read this book when it first came out in 1994, when I was 13. I had just been busted by my parents for stealing prescription drugs from their medicine cabinet (I think the plan was to kill myself...hazy), and this book appeared on my mother's nightstand soon after. I remember approaching the book like an army general who has gotten his hands on the enemy's battle plans, only interested in it as far as it could reveal to me what plan the adults were hatching this time so I could fortify my defe ...more
Aug 09, 2007 Laura added it
Recommends it for: Parents
This book is targeted at parents of girls in the 90's. While I think it had many good things to say, it was also very repetitive and could have been edited into a much tighter and more to the point read. Also, a little updating is in order. When Pipher wrote this book, things like "myspace" and "facebook" weren't even in existence. I imagine that many parents in the 00's and beyond would probably appreciate some tools for dealing with these new intrusions into family life.

Some parents might take
Nov 30, 2014 Devon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents of tween and adolescent girls
It took me months to read this because it's so dense and so hard to read about all the ways a young girl can totally go off the rails--girls who are whip-smart, athletic, funny, loving and fearless at the age of ten can turn a corner and become withdrawn, silenced by many forces and self-destruct.

In developmental psychology, Erikson theorizes that adolescence is a time of resolving the conflict "identity vs. role confusion". I don't know how anyone survives this after reading Pipher's accounts
This book has opened my eyes to the complications of adolesence that my daughter is just on the cusp of. Although the book is 10 years old, and I am significantly younger than the author, I found the topics to be very relevant even today. I personally relate better to the author, who was a child in the 50's, and feel that the problems girls were beginning to face in the 90's are worse than I faced in the 80's and are still very much a probem today, probably more so. Reading about all of the chal ...more
This book is highly recommended in "How to Talk to your Child about Sex" by the Eyre's, which I have read and reviewed ( ), so I have queued it up for reading.

This book is a good companion book to read with "Packaging Girlhood", see for my goodreads review.

"Packaging Girlhood" shows you what goes on behind the media and marketing that pushes girls (from toddler to college age)
I really wanted to enjoy this book. It's nonfiction about raising girls (quite a few of my friends had it marked to read thinking it was's not). Written by a PhD in the 90's I was instantly drawn in and found her observations not only interesting but also disturbing. Truth be told, I didn't actually finish the book because it was just beating me down. I quickly skimmed the second half just to make sure I wasn't setting aside something that would change my life (or more accurately my ...more
I HATED this book. Is there NO hope for our girls? I found this book to be very negative about the future of girls trying to grow up in this world. Although the book is outdated I did not find a whole lot that related to the average American girl. The author generalizes about girls as a whole based upon her patients that are in therapy. This is not to say that girls are not going to have issues, but I don't think the majority of girls are going to have the depth of issues of the girls in this bo ...more
Twenty years ago this book was talked about a lot amongst our high school's faculty, parents, and (female) students. (Well, at least the faculty/parents MADE us talk about it.)

But, it turns out I never actually read Reviving Ophelia back then, and I recently picked it up for $1 at a used book sale thinking that--since I now have a daughter-- it might be worth reading for real. A lot of issues with adolescent girls are timeless, right?

Unfortunately, yes. Dr. Pipher must be pretty chagrined that
This book deals with the lives of young girls and their struggle with eating disorders. I read this when this was an issue in my own family, and I found it to be a great resource.
Review on Reading Lark:

How do you begin to critique a book that changed your entire life? It might sound like hyperbole to some, but that’s what Reviving Ophelia did; it changed my life. And based on the feedback I get every time I mention the book, it’s subtitle of Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls is somewhat misleading, because it has “saved the selves” of many an adult as well. The book is equal parts fascinating and eye opening, and, in this revi
I have three daughters, ages 11, 13, and 15. So when a teacher friend recommended, "Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls," who was I to say no?

It was a good read. The title is based on Ophelia, from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Happy as a young girl, Ophelia loses herself in adolescence and lives only for the approval of Hamlet and her father. She goes mad with grief when her authority figures spurn her, and finally drowns herself in a stream. Author Mary Pipher wrote this book hopin
Dec 01, 2008 Sarah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with Daughters!
Recommended to Sarah by: Leslie, Carla
This book was a slow go because of the digestion required and my own reflection. It wavered from 5 to 4 to 3 and back to 5 stars for me. This book, written by a female phsychologist in hte 90's, has some really great insight and analysis on what adolescent girls are faced with in our culture, reaching out to them, understanding them, loving them, parenting them, and about a hundred case studies of too much, too little, just right, horror stories, good adjustment stories, etc. It talks about girl ...more
I won't lie: this book scared the shit out of me. Please Lord, never let my daughter become a teenager!

This is a serious topic that not enough research addresses: the confusing messages confronting adolescent girls and how little understood they are in our culture. I wanted to read it in order to understand the challenges my daughter will face, although it was written when I was a teenager so it helped me understand a lot of the things I went through as well. I wanted to gain an adult's perspec
My interest in this one is kind of hard to pin down: in part, like everyone else I'm curious and concerned about what young women go through-- this is probably just curiosity, mixed with a recognition that I'd like to understand my students a little better. But at the same time, I think that "teen girl" as a category is kind of a political football, a screen through which people wage these kind of political turf battles-- in other words, disparage the culture for its effects on teen girls. Teen ...more
Overall, a pretty scary summation of the pressures affecting our growing daughters (especially for a father!). Though a bit dated, I'm sure many of the trends have only gotten worse since the 1990s. As a parent of a bright child, (and someone trying to familiarize myself with pressures and upcoming challenges), I hope we'll be able to mediate some of these!

My only real critique is her constant comparison to boys and how they're raised. Pipher seems to be saying that only girls can have complicat
Camille Baird
Lots of insight on the difficulties girls have in the developmental stage between childhood and adulthood. Dealing with the negative impacts of culture, media, perceived expectations, peer pressure, exploration of freedoms as girls move into adulthood and many other impacts are explored with case studies and reflection. I thought it was an excellent book with great insight. My only negative was the repeated time limiting reference to "girls in the 90's". I am reading this book 25 years later, ha ...more
Dixie Diamond
I never really feel like I identify personally--intensely--with books like this since I grew up in a family that was not very clued-in to popular culture and its demoralizing standards, and had parents who did not do to me most of the things parents can do to screw up their children. Nobody drank, nobody cheated, my mother is not a chronic dieter, my father and I are good friends, they both would have slaughtered anyone who touched their children inappropriately. Really, we were pathologically s ...more
I read this book years ago, when I myself had just recently left my own adolescence. Now, a the mother of a 12 year old daughters, I reread the book with different eyes.

I think I needed this reminder. It helps me remember my past thought processes, pressures, and choices. So much so that I think I will be a more empathetic mother.

The book is a little dated. While many of the challenges I faced as a girl in the 90s are similar to the challenges adolescent girls now face, there are pretty big ne
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
2015 Reading Chal...: Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher 3 11 Apr 10, 2015 04:21PM  
American Adolescent Girls 6 16 Jul 27, 2012 12:01AM  
question about the title 2 18 Jul 23, 2012 02:37PM  
Adolescent psychology 2 27 Oct 29, 2011 03:36PM  
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“I teach girls certain skills. The first and most basic is centering. I recommend that they find a quiet place where they can sit alone daily for 10 to 15 minutes. I encourage them to sit in this place, relax their muscles and breathe deeply. Then they are to focus on their own thoughts and feelings about the day. They are not to judge these thoughts or feelings or even direct them, only to observe them and respect them. They have much to learn from their own internal reactions to their lives.” 5 likes
“Another vital skill is managing pain. All the craziness in the world comes from people trying to escape suffering. All mixed up behaviour comes from unprocessed pain. People drink, hit their mates and children, gamble, cut themselves with razors and even kill themselves in an attempt to escape pain. I teach girls to sit with their pain, to listen to it for messages about their lives, to acknowledge and describe it rather than to run from it. They learn to write about pain, to talk about it, to express it through exercise, art, dance or music.” 4 likes
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