Freeman airs some provocative theories, exploring the idea that anorexia can be seen as a feminist rejection of all the womanly roles girls are expected to assume ... While acknowledging that research is nascent and scant, Freeman even goes so far as to wonder whether some percentage of today’s gender-dysphoric girls might have been yesterday’s anorexic girls — whether there seems to be a common root ... Anorexia is narrow and claustrophobic, just as was Freeman’s own life when she was in the grip of the disease. Freeman seems to be aware of this pitfall. She has brought to bear every ounce of her trademark clarity, precision and wit to render her own experience, and that of other women with anorexia, with the utmost specificity and sensitivity. And she has done a service to those struggling with this disorder. Whether anorexia is a compelling subject for a wider audience is an open question, and a subjective one. I personally found myself defiantly fetching a bowl of midday ice cream as I read, and longing for wider horizons, the kind that Freeman, after years marked by desperately seeking smallness, managed, thankfully, to find.
Freeman evokes the mental processes of anorexia extraordinarily well, and her candor will make a great many people feel less lonely. Because she focuses on her own experience in Good Girls, she mentions male anorexia only in passing. But that doesn’t invalidate what she offers at the end of the book—a summation, over two pages, of all the things she wishes we would impress on girls to spare them the sort of misery she went through ... It’s impassioned, a sort of manifesto, and we should take it to heart.
At times, there is an oddity about this book, a curious sense of separation between the suffering younger self and the aloof older self, but Freeman is a brave, illuminating and meticulous reporter and uses her experience wisely ... What her book most brutally brings home is the way that anorexia insidiously slides into mental illness.
Wry and diligently researched ... Hadley Freeman acknowledges that the sheer exhaustion of managing so many destructive behaviours, coupled with the demands of a career made possible by continuing her education, drove her to a more stable recovery. She is now a mother of three, her illness safely in the past. With a reporter’s careful detachment from the toxic romanticism of anorexia, she offers a valuable road map for flourishing.
Frank and insightful ... The 1990s was a grim time to be in hospital with anorexia and Good Girls captures that perfectly ... This book explores beautifully the tendency of young women to express their distress through bodily illness ... Reading this book, I was struck throughout by the humility of the account and the responsibility she takes for her disorder ... I learnt a great deal from this book and I don’t think it should be read only as a study of anorexia ... Good Girls offers insight into the unique struggle of adolescent girls in an era when they are told they can be anything — as long as they never stop being pleasing and pretty too.