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Friday Fiction: Perk!

Perk! The Story of a Teenager with Bulimia

Submitter: Found on the shelf recently at a moderately sized branch of a large public library system in California.  This is a seemingly self-published teen fiction book about bulimia entitled “Perk!” Yes, with the exclamation point. Perk is kind of a mess. At one point she almost kills her toddler sister because she leaves the kid alone by a creek during a bulimia session. They use words like “pocketbook” and there’s a cringingly awful scene in a hospital where a “heavy set, black nurse” stops Perk’s dad from beating her. Absolutely no teen appeal, dated, and unhelpful.

Holly: It was an ALA [edit: no, it wasn’t!] award winner and a finalist for a fiction writing fellowship. In the late 90s. That means it was probably pretty good back then. Do we keep all award winners for all time? No way! I don’t care how great a book was back in its day. It has to earn its place on the shelves every passing year. This one can be replaced with any number of current teen fiction books about bulimia.

Also, what’s up with the white “cataloged” sticker on the cover? Is it special from other cataloged books in the library, or does everything ultimately get that sticker once it’s cataloged??


8 Responses to Friday Fiction: Perk!

  • Hey….that is not an ALA Award! It is from a local writers group.

    Also, I bet the cataloged sticker was because most paperbacks of this ilk were not cataloged (and were part of a “browsing collection”).

    • You’re right! Where on earth did I get the idea that it was an ALA award?? My bad!! Strike that part. Sometimes I google these books before I post them, but I sure can’t find anything online that indicates any sort of ALA award. Sorry about that!

  • The back cover shot doesn’t say it’s an ALA award winner–that Southern California group has no connection to ALA that I can see: it’s a writers’/artists’ group.

    • Fixed! No clue where that “ALA” bit came from. My typing fingers just got carried away, I guess.

  • That Perk is some hot mess!

  • “They use words like “pocketbook”…” OK, what’s wrong with using a word like “pocketbook?” My young daughter in law uses the word all the time! Apparently it’s the word back east (US) for purse or handbag. Funny reason to pick out of all the things wrong with a book!

    I don’t think “heavy-set black nurse” is dated either. It could have been a “heavy-set nurse,” or a “heavy-set white nurse.” Young writers are always told to add those descriptive details! Is it “black” or “heavy-set” or both used together that’s the problem?

    If it’s dated, replace it. But, not because a librarian doesn’t use the word “pocketbook” or doesn’t like “heavy-set” nurse descriptions!

    • I’m thinking that “pocketbook” in this case might be a euphemism rather than a reference to an actual handbag. As far as the description of the nurse, it’s generally considered weird, or so I have gleaned, to point out someone’s race/ethnicity if it doesn’t pertain to the plot or situation at hand. The nurse’s size matters in this scene, because she’s large enough to “manhandle” a grown man, but her blackness is irrelevant here, and so its mention sticks out. It’s also combined with a hands-on-hips, chin-jutting gesture that can be read as a racial stereotype.

      • I don’t think it’s a problem to describe someone in a way that makes their ethnicity clear, but it should be done across the board, and generally it’s not. Calling out characters as black but never describing people who are white makes it clear that white is the default and everything else is “other.”