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Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  25,139 ratings  ·  1,177 reviews
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 human beings fallen prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and crushingly low self-esteem? The answer hit a nerve with Pipher, with parents, and with the gir ...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published September 1st 2005 by Riverhead Books (first published 1994)
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Joyful Comfort Yes, more than ever. The book describes a problem which has only gotten worse for today's teenage girls - with cellphones, Instagram, and Snapchat, li…moreYes, more than ever. The book describes a problem which has only gotten worse for today's teenage girls - with cellphones, Instagram, and Snapchat, likes & comments constantly rating and announcing who or what is popular - it's increasingly difficult for girls to hold onto a sense of self.(less)
Megan Surely Ainsley meant to say everybody should read this book. That being said, the book is mostly narratives about girls struggling, not a psychology t…moreSurely Ainsley meant to say everybody should read this book. That being said, the book is mostly narratives about girls struggling, not a psychology textbook, so it really depends on the boy.(less)

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Suzanne Evans
Aug 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 31, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Holly Bond
Oct 10, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Nov 13, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
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
Feb 21, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
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. ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
me:single handedly tries to fight the mass media while protecting every young girl in america
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Oct 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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:
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
An important book for the parents of adolescent girls. In her practice as a therapist, Pipher became concerned about the number of adolescent girls she was seeing with severe depression, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and cripplingly low self-esteem. As she worked with them, she came to believe that many of these problems stemmed from the tremendous pressure society puts on girls to be physically beautiful and sexually appealing from a very young age and from sexism and sexual violence. Pi ...more
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was published the year after I graduated high school and it would have been helpful to read it at that time. I remember the feeling of knowing something was wrong with our society but not being able to put my finger on it. Oh, how many ways our culture has failed the humans and other beings who live on Mother Earth together! My adolescent self was just beginning to realize that in 1994.

This book addresses one of the ways in which our culture has failed: our misogyny. This is wounding
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2007 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
Apr 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: healthy-mind
I read this book when I was going through adolescence. Honestly, it was a book that I would return to again and again for advice.
It was a great comfort to me and provided tremendous insight.
Feb 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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)
Erica Clou
I read the 2019 anniversary edition and I imagine it's a lot better than the original because it could compare and contrast the problems of young girls in different decades: the 1990s (when I was a teen) and the early 2000s. Though I thought the book was interesting, it was made up predominantly of personal stories and seemed to lack more rigorous science. For example, I never understood precisely what about the culture made girls in the 1990s such a mess that somehow lost its influence in the e ...more
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, rereads
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
Jun 29, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Wendy Jackson
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book as part of long-term preparations for my daughter's adolescence. I figure the more I understand, the better equipped I will be - though one can never be fully equipped, of course. I found the book very accessible: the author includes many case studies to illustrate her points, and these are backed up with her more theoretical ideas about how everyone can escape mostly unscathed from adolescence. It would be great if there were a newer edition of the book: it is more than twenty ...more
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.
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
dang. society is messed up, yo.
Nancy McInerney
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerful books for our young girls to read and then read again.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a very important book when it came out. About girls and how they were treated. It got people talking.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Self-help book about sexual abuse [s] 9 193 Feb 10, 2016 04:10PM  
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 26 Jul 23, 2012 02:37PM  
Adolescent psychology 2 28 Oct 29, 2011 03:36PM  

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