The Best Little Girl in the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Best Little Girl in the World

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  3,452 ratings  ·  135 reviews
At first, no one knows that something is fatally wrong with fifteen-year-old Kessa -- not her parents, teachers, friends, or family doctor. No one knows Kessa avoids eating whenever she can and forces herself to vomit when she does eat . . . that she has gone from an "A" student to failing. No one knows until Kessa's weight drops from 98 pounds to 88, 81, 78 . . . and it m...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 7th 1989 by Turtleback Books (first published September 28th 1978)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I read this book when i was about 11 and it honestly became part of my downfall. For me it was more of "how to" then a "dont be like her". Although I still to this day like this book i was WAY to young to read it. I think its an important book even if the writer is in my opion a self-righteous hack... but hes a psychologist who wrote a best seller what can you do. I would highly suggest this book to any parent or family member of someone suffering an eating disorder or a well adjusted adult or t...more
I read this book in high school several times. It's about a young girl - Francessca dying (literally) to be model thin. You get wrapped up in her rituals that rule her life and you also feel what her parents go thru as they watch her waste away...
important book, though i really hate the author. kessa is, i think, fairly believable. i am enormously glad that he wrote a follow-up book, finally ( kessa), because let's face it, the relapse rate for anorexia is awful high. (this makes me want to read gaining by amiee lui even more RIGHT NOW.)

again, the only problem i really had was that he takes the "typical" trope of the anorexia child - perfect at everything, with troubles at home, especially in communication. the father wants to control,...more
Amanda Birdwell
Perhaps it should be called, "Another ridiculous and deluded little girl saved by a super smart man telling her what to do"? Besides reducing the inner life of the protagonist to that of a cartoon character and wrapping up a disorder that often skews towards a life sentence by a few weeks of giving the doctor total control, Levenkron seems barely able to mask his sense that all women are kind of fucked up and this particular caricature is an adequate depiction of American femininity, eating diso...more
Greta is Erikasbuddy
This book was a nice After School Special (and yeah... it really was turned into one )

It was written by a psychologist dude who was like the god-father of anorexia treatments. The funny thing is... you could tell it was totally a guy when he wrote for the anorexic girl.

The interesting thing is he gave a clear idea of what doctors think about anorexics.

Granted this was written in 1978 when people were just realizing that women were starving themselves but 33 years later not much has changed but...more
I read this in like high school I think, but I remember it being a really good book that gives a very realistic look into the minds of people with eating disorders.
An anorexia book that I have had to replace twice in the library. The girls love this book. The book is 25+ years old but teens still like it.
more interesting as historical artifact than as literary experience. the first novel about anorexia, to my knowledge. extremely heavy-handed with the psychologizing, and the heroism of the psychologist reads a bit suspect, given that the writer himself is, ahem, a psychologist. while there is deep sympathy for kessa (l'anorexic), there's also a lot of scorn, from numerous characters and at times from the omniscient narrator himself. this kind of ambivalence interests me, especially given the ped...more
One of the worst novels I've ever read about eating disorders and yet it somehow has this hypnotic hold over the reader...a much, much better novel is _Winter Girls_ by Laurie Halse Anderson. It does not glamorize anorexia nor make it seem like something good...or something off of a "pro-ana" website. Levenkron's novel, unfortunately, is like a play-by-play manual...overrated and well-known for all the wrong reasons.
Everything happens way too fast, one day she was fine, the next she had an eating disorder ? It's not how it happens, it's supposed to be progressive and creep up on you. Good story, but I'm not a huge fan of the writing style. It's all a quick succession of events that are recounted too fast to really get into it, it's not as elaborately written as other ED-related books, doesn't give you as much insight into the mind of an anorexic as other books do .. It was a quick, light read and that's goo...more
I hated this book, mostly because Levenkron uses the stereotype of a person with anorexia nervosa. The way he writes the book makes the reader, if not otherwise informed, think that an eating disordered person must not only be white, privileged, and female, but also must be emaciated. He ignores the most basic thing - that people of any weight can have an eating disorder - and chooses instead to make his protagonist tiny.

It feels like in this book, as in his book The Luckiest Girl in the World (...more
This book was suggested by my classmate in 6th grade, who happened to be our batch's valedictorian. I was so surprised when she gave me this book to read, she told me the snippets then I got interested, I could say this book is repleted with text that would describe every girls' situation in our society today; adding to the fact that Francesca is a ballerina, it adds to her pressure to get thinner and thinner every moment possible. And it's so absurd how she hates food that everything that has a...more
Hannah Cummins
A truly frightening story.

One day at dance class, Francesca's dance teacher tells her she needs to drop just a few pounds from her already tiny body. And that night, Kessa, Francesca's alterego, is born. Kessa stops eating and begins losing too much weight. Her parents take her to the doctor and try therapy. But Kessa still won't eat. Her obsession begins turning into to an actual fear. She drops to 78 pounds. Her chances of living are looking, well, slim.

253 pages. 1 book.

I recommend this to pe...more
Nov 04, 2008 Joelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joelle by: my sister
Shelves: quarter1

I really really liked this book, it was so sad to watch a girl struggle with society and being perfect that she starts to kill herself by not eating! when you read this you want to help her but you can't and she just keeps loosing weight until she ends up in rehab. i recommend this book to everyone because it is a strong powerful book, and just to put yourself in a person with anorexia nervosa's place will let you see what people who have this go through and feel. I am glad my sister recommended...more
i read this book in high skool + wos blown away.

when i say i enjoyd this book, it is not in a sick way, just how wel written it was about anorexia.

since i have not read it for a few years and only borrowed it from the library, i am searced on + got a copy all 4 myself. now i have another book on the go, lol

Though I admire this book because it was ground-breaking when it came out, as it is essentially the first fictional book on eating disorders ever written, I found it a little too dramatic. As someone who has suffered with anorexia myself, this was a little unrealistic. It's worth reading, though.
This was a good book about anorexia that had a lot of clinical type information, but it was fiction and interesting--definitely a departure from the recent attitude about anorexia in popular culture.
I hate this book because it is written by a man who doesn't know anything about the experience of having an eating disorder.
Not very realistic, very dated. A nice quick read but not helpful or informative.
Steven Levenkron’s The Best Little Girl In The World, is about a teenage girl, Kessa that has the need to look and act perfect. Once her ballet teacher tells her she would look better with less fat and more grace, Kessa struggles with her weight and life. She begins to drop from 98, to 81 to 74 pounds in just weeks. Kessa then begins to fail her classes and focus on nothing but her weight and ballet. Once her parents admit her into a hospital ward for anorexics, Kessa begins to realize the root...more
I figured it was a "naughty, raunchy" book from the cover picture-a long haired teenage girl, hand to her face, looking down in a mirror on a black background, and of course the title, "The Best Little Girl in the World." Turns out it's a medium to strong story about treating girl with Anorexia. The various elements of the story satisfied me: the girl's thought process and changes as she descended into life-threatening behavior; the psychiatrist and his youth and inexperience, fear of patient de...more
In April 1985, I went on a trip to L.A. with the Single Mother (TSM) and the Perpetually Stoned and yet Surly 14 Year Old Brother (The Stoner). On that trip (financed by the way, by TSM's ugly and rich boyfriend de jour)I discovered:
Nikki, masturbating with a magazine-replayed 1000 times on a Sony Walkman like device- would always be hot and could never get boring;
Muhammed Ali liked me to sit on his lap;
Sonny Bono was a creep-that tree did us all a service.
My mother is retarded when it comes to...more
I definitely went through a bit of internal difficulty while reading this book just because of how extraordinarily insufferable "Kessa" was. Her characterization struck me above all else as she came through as so singularly self-absorbed, seemingly without any personal merit. Interesting that this is how all of her doctors/therapists grouped anorexic/bulemic patients as a whole. Even more interesting that Levenkron himself was a psychotherapist...! I won't presume to interpret whatever connectio...more
While I understand that at the time this was a groundbreaking work of fiction, today it's not. The characters are all stereotypes. It makes the whole Eating Disorder seem really, really easy. She literally decides one day not to eat and has a pretty good grasp on calorie content of food. How did she learn calorie counts? The pacing of the book makes it seem like she loses all that weight in a few days. It takes a long time to lose weight. Then her recovery seems really easy. Her rituals and obse...more
Hazel McHaffie
It's written by Steven Levenkron,an expert in USA and as such has an extra degree of authority and perceptiveness.
Francesca is in her teens, so emaciated that she’s admitted to hospital. The usual standard triggers for anorexia are there: family tensions and conflicts and pride in her sister and brother stop them showing love for her. She’s rescued by a warm, understanding psychologist, Sandy Sherman. It details obsessive behaviours and control mechanisms as well as the relentless decline.

If you had asked me what I had thought of this book when I was a pre-teen, I would have said it was wonderful, and would have given it 5 stars. Looking back on it now, I see that the psychology behind this book and its sequel, Kessa, is suspect. I very much agree with what one reviewer said below, that this was a how-to book for her and part of her downfall. I too took it as a how-to. We didn't have pro-ana in the 1980s (although thank goodness for that). Some of Kessa's thoughts still ring thro...more
This book was unrealistic, she was a complete pro of counting calories and knowing exacting how many calories every type of food was, in what seemed less than two weeks. She dropped like 20 pounds in what seemed like two weeks. There was no uniqueness in this book, just the typical stereotype of anorexia. Excluding all that, the book was quite addicting to read, and I got caught up in her bizarre behavior. I felt sorry for Kessa, but I also didn't care much for her. I usually fall in love with t...more
Jan 28, 2013 Luthien rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Psychology students
Shelves: psych
The Best Little Girl In The World by Steven Levenkron is about revealing a young girl's darkest fantasies and the triumphant story of her return to the sunlight of reality.

Francesca Dietrich was a five-foot, ninety-eight-pound girl which she really hates about herself.
She thought that being fat is being a monster! being a loser! and being thin and skinny is beautiful. The thinner is the winner!

I like the twist of the story that it is not all about wanting to be skinny but there's something much...more
Emma Draisin

levenkron really understands some of the thoughts, habits and emotions of an eating disorder. I speak from personal experience. I also love how the book ends (spoiler alert) - on a hopeful note. I recommend it to anyone who might have a eating disorder themselves, or who knows someone who does.
Aug 30, 2008 Charles rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Women and girls, anyone who'se life is out of control.
This is about a chubby girl's struggles to join the in group and then her battle against anorexia for her life. Again, it's about choosing your friends well. Obviously this book was a bummer. What struck me hardest was the similarities between alcoholic thinking and anorexic thinking, centering on her need to have control of SOMETHING in her life. Boys can find something to control in a model railroad or an interest in computers, but that would get one branded as a nerd. Girls being required to...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Second Star to the Right
  • Goodbye, Paper Doll
  • Stick Figure
  • Hunger Point
  • More Than You Can Chew
  • Perfect: Anorexia & Me
  • Biting Anorexia: A Firsthand Account of an Internal War
  • Slim to None: A Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment
  • Unwell
  • Feeling For Bones
  • Life-Size
  • Mercy, Unbound
  • Thin
  • After the Strawberry
  • Insatiable: The Compelling Story of Four Teens, Food and Its Power
  • Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders
  • Empty: A Story of Anorexia
  • Diary of an Exercise Addict
Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation The Luckiest Girl in the World Kessa Anatomy of Anorexia Stolen Tomorrows: Understanding and Treating Women's Childhood Sexual Abuse

Share This Book

“How silly people were to eat. They thought they needed food for energy, but they didn't. Energy came from will, from self-control.” 15 likes
“She ran her hands over her body as if to bid it good-bye. The hipbones rising from a shrunken stomach were razor-sharp. Would they be lost in a sea of fat? She counted her ribs bone by bone. Where would they go?” 13 likes
More quotes…