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Islington librarian’s anorexia novel is ‘must read’ for teenage girls

School Librarian and teen author Lesley Cheetham with her books School Librarian and teen author Lesley Cheetham with her books

Monday, March 24, 2014
12:18 PM

Book competing with David Walliams for prize

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Young girls suffering with eating disorders are finding solace in a series of novels penned by a school librarian who has witnessed the effects of anorexia first hand.

Lesley Cheetham, 50, has ­received heartfelt feedback from teenage girls who have been helped by her books and has been nominated in the ­Islington Teen Read Awards.

She has sold hundreds of her novels in e-book and paperback form and is the only local ­author nominated to make the list of the six most popular books with youngsters in the borough.

Mrs Cheetham, who has been a librarian for almost 30 years and now works at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, used her own experiences of dealing with eating disorders, having a cousin who suffered from anorexia.

“My personal experience of seeing a family member go through it helped me writing the books, but it’s complete fiction,” said Mrs Cheetham, of Vernon Rise, King’s Cross.

“When my cousin read the first book she found it really interesting. She said she could see where certain bits came from and the effect that it has on the people around you.”

Since self publishing her first novel Her Sister’s Voice in May 2012, the book and its ­sequel Her Other Voice have ­become popular with teenage girls in the borough after being circulated in schools and libraries.

Mrs Cheetham has also been into schools to talk to teenage girls about the books and their subject. She has had some great feedback, including one girl who said the books had helped her through her own eating disorder.

Sequel

“She said that it was the only thing that she could relate to when she was going through a really difficult time, and that really meant a lot to me – more than any brilliant review.

“I decided to publish because I wanted to see if it would be something young people would want to read about.

“When I went and did a talk at Mount Carmel the girls there told me I had to do a sequel.

“To hear the girls arguing about my characters was an amazing feeling.”

Lots of young people have read the books and there have been several “brilliant” ­reviews on Amazon, with 11 readers giving the first book a five-star rating.

Comments from readers include “An astonishing novel, that has remained in my thoughts ever since I reluctantly read the last page,” and “it represents a very real perspective on how eating disorders take over the lives of not only the victim but also the family.”

She’s now going up against the likes of Little Britain and Britain’s Got Talent star David Walliams for the prize of Islington’s favourite books for teens.

Voting has already closed, with about 800 teenagers across the borough submitting their favourite read.

The winner of the award will be announced at a special ceremony at Waterstones, Islington Green, where Mrs Cheetham’s books are now on sale.

She will also be reading a passage from her new book, a thriller about a young girl’s search for her fugitive father.

“The new book is completely different to the other two.

“Thrillers are what I personally like to read so that’s what I like to write.

“I think there’s definitely ­going to be one more in the Her Sister’s Voice series though, once I’ve finished the book I’m writing at the moment.”

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