BODY TALK: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy

As a doctor who has been known to refer people to books, I was so excited to come across this anthology about body image and self-esteem for teens. The teenage years are still a time of doubt and insecurity for a lot of our young people. How lovely to be able to guide them to an attractive and easy-to-read book by a variety of writers and famous figures. The book also goes beyond the usual coverage of puberty and body image to really delve into the complexities of make-up, body positivity and gender identity, among other topics.

Teen librarian turned YA non-fiction anthologist

Headshot of Kelly Jensen, editor/author of Body Talk
Kelly Jensen, editor/author, from author webpage

The editor/author, Kelly Jensen, is an ex-teen librarian who currently writes for Book Riot. She obviously has her finger on the pulse of popular culture and has a network of writers, such as Roshani Choksi and Julie Murphy, she could call on to contribute to this, her latest anthology. Her previous collections include the acclaimed (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health and Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World.

Back in my day, we had Dolly, Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan magazines to help us navigate issues around body image. Those sort of magazines aren’t available now, so I’m guessing young people search or stumble across information on YouTube and other search engines. We all know how that can end up, so it’s nice to know there’s a collection available just for the teen reader.

Intimate essays

The essays are a perfect mixture of intimate, first-person sharing and awareness of the broader social and political context surrounding the body politic.

Body Talk by Kelly Jensen. Teen anthology on bodies and body image. Cover design by Laura Williams.
Body Talk cover designed by Laura Williams

I love that the voices are warm. The blue-and-white layout is bright and airy. Together, they will encourage teens to read at random and be introduced to topics they might not have thought about before.

I found myself deeply absorbed by Eric Smith’s memoir about his experience as a hairy 11-year-old, who desperately needed to shave his moustache off before performing as an angel in a Broadway play. I felt his anguish, but honestly, I would never have given the issue a second thought before reading this.

Bodies in more ways than you’d expect

Other topics I didn’t expect to discover were testicular cancer (by Benjamin Pu) and penises (by urologist and YA author IW Gregorio). Two very different accounts of scoliosis (by YA authors Rachael Lippincott and Lilliam Rivera) bookend the book. Tyra Banks’ account of her experience with the paparazzi was very powerful. I also found Sara Saedi’s tribute to her immigrant father’s yellow, crooked teeth heartwarming. 

Body Talk e-book cover, designed by Laura Williams, on smartphone, surrounded by brightly coloured gel tip pens. Teen anthology on body image.
Body Talk e-book

Within Medicine, we always studied health and illness within the biopsychosocial framework. This recognises the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to our experience of health, illness and disease. Sure we learned the “facts” about topics such as obesity, but we also learned about the controversies and debates around definitions, classification systems, the diet industry and so on. I’m really glad these issues are being discussed now by the general public. And it’s wonderful to see them being introduced to teenagers in an empowering and intimate way that I hope will encourage discussion with their peers, teachers, parents and health care professionals.

I hope this book is recommended and shared widely!

A Novel Prescription for: Teens


Body image, body positivity, puberty, self-esteem, disability, identity, inclusivity, diversity


Algonquin Young Readers, 2020, 256 pp, ISBN 1616209674

I’m so excited to be part of the publisher’s blog tour for the launch of this book. It comes out on 18 August 2020, so make sure you preorder this evergreen title.

E-ARC provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.