- Throughout the novel, Anise finds solace
in words. Why do words have such an impact on her? What words does
she find especially powerful? Find examples of when Anise, herself,
uses words well, either in her writing or her sarcastic comebacks.
- Discuss the relationship between Marcel and Anise. How does
it change through the novel?
- Images of skeletal models bombard us thousands of times a day
in magazines, billboards, on tv and computer screens. 92% of young
women claim they want to change something about their bodies. 1 52%
of girls begin dieting before the age of 14 2;
81% of 10-year-olds and 46% of 9-year-olds diet. 3 One
British therapist claims that looking at fashion magazines for just
three minutes negatively affects 80% of women. 4 The
American Psychiatric Association Work Group on Eating Disorders estimates
that some 8% of women suffer from either anorexia nervosa or bulimia
nervosa. 5 It is estimated that
there is one male with anorexia for every 4 females, and one male
with bulimia for every 8 to 11 females. Bulimia and other eating
disorders are increasingly common in males, particularly among athletes
and body builders concerned with body image and perfection. 6
How does writing in her journal,
in essence, save Anise’s life? Can writing a journal realistically
help one to negotiate these issues?
- How does Sobat use humour in this novel? Is humour appropriate
for such a serious subject?
- Several healthy people play a pivotal role in Anise’s
movement towards healing. Discuss how each of the following touch
a. Maureen the psychologist (and what is the significance of
the images of the women on her office wall?)
b. Mr. Rowe, teacher
c. Ms. Dobbin, teacher
d. Fran, a nurse
e. Camilla de Branscoville,
artist and art teacher
- Anise is an avid reader. How do the kinds of works she reads
contribute to her journal writing and/or her recovery?
- At a crucial point in the novel, Anise’s brother, Marcel,
slips into a self-destructive cycle. How does this affect Anise?
Why, in the end, can she do nothing to help her brother?
- Several times in the novel Anise reacts vehemently to being
labelled. Are labels necessarily negative or damaging? Why or why
- Is Anise’s relationship with Boyd a positive or a negative
thing, given that he is bipolar? Does he help or hinder her recovery?
- Much is made in the novel of the dysfunctional relationships in
family. Is her family to blame for her illness? What is Anise’s
responsibility in relation to her eating disorder? Why is the redecoration
of her room a triggering incident?
- What do the two acts of a)
burning the Barbie dolls and fashion magazines, and b) burying the
family of dolls in the flowerbed symbolize?
- Anise flees from
the hospital and across the bridge to a park where she contemplates
taking her life. What changes her mind? Why must she make the return
journey to the hospital alone?
- In your opinion, what is Anise
most hungry for? 14. What might Sobat be suggesting about the healing
powers of art and story?
1 “Beyond Stereotypes,” Global
study commissioned by Dove of 3,000 women and girls, Dove realbeauty
2 Johnson, et al, Journal of Youth
and Adolescence, 1984, 13.
3 Mellin, Scully and Irwin, Paper
presented at American Dietetic Assoc. Annual Meeting, October 1986.
4 Dr. Susie Orbach, Dove realbeauty
School Program, 2006, 11.
5 American Psychiatric Association
Work Group on Eating Disorders. (2000). Practice guideline for the
treatment of patients with eating disorders (revision). American
Journal of Psychiatry; 157 (1 Suppl):
6 “Eating Disorders and Body
Image,” (2006), 14 January 2008,
Topics and Themes English:
- Intertextual studies (how other literature texts inform
- Journal writing
- Creative writing
- Media studies – gender and body image in
- Frida - the film
- Etymology and power of words
- Free verse poetry/ haiku
- Songs and lyrics by Canadian singer/songwriter
- Research paper on the various historical/cultural figures
in the novel: Frida Kahlo, Emily Murphy, Rosie the Riveter, bell
hooks, Angela Davis, Michaëlle Jean, Rosemary Brown, Rosa Parks,
Possible Topics and Themes for students of Art:
- Frida Kahlo
- The Scream by Edvard Munch
- Vincent Van Gogh (Starry Night, Crows
Over The Wheatfield etc.)
- Women artists
- Art therapy
The book is suitable for grades 9 through 12, and there are applications
for the study of English, Creative Writing, Art, Health and Phys Ed.