Book by Lisa Hinkelman
Review by Lisa Scheese
Academic Advisor-Biological Sciences
University of Missouri-Columbia

You just don’t understand what I’m going through! These are the words that many parents, teachers, advisors and school professionals hear from adolescent girls on a regular basis.  In Lisa Hinkelman’s book Girls without Limits:  Helping Girls Achieve Healthy Relationships, Academic Success and Interpersonal Strength, the author explores the challenges girls face on a daily basis, how outside agents shape girls’ perceptions of themselves and how adults can encourage self esteem and leadership development.

Hinkelman’s book is a collection of topics related to the angst of adolescent girls’ transitions to adulthood.    Her research is intertwined with first-person accounts of growing up in today’s world. The book runs through a range of topics, which include how girls see themselves, how the media portrays female role models, dating and sexual violence, girl leadership and career development. With such a wide range of topics, readers, whether parents, coaches, or mentors will find something of interest that relates to a girl they know or with whom they are in close contact.

Perhaps the most valuable components of the book are the activities listed throughout each chapter that may be a platform to help an advisor or mentor start a difficult conversation.  For example, in the chapter “Looking Out for the Girls”, the author lists a what-do-I-say scenario for talking with a girl who has experienced sexual violence (p. 88).  These exercises are designed to make girls reflect on a topic and arrive at their own conclusions on acceptable versus non-acceptable behaviors.

At the end of each chapter a What We can Do? section gives step-by-step practical advice on how to help girls be successful.  In the chapter Girls’ Leadership in a Boy’s World, the tips provided for encouraging leadership include, providing spaces for girls to explore new things, connecting girls with women leaders and setting up experiences for girls to exercise their leadership skills (p. 142). These activities and tips for interacting with girls provide guidance on what to do and may help prevent the faux pas of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

One issue readers may have with the book is the author’s assumption that they are so out of touch with the experiences of current high school girls, they cannot relate. Many of the topics discussed in the book are very similar issues to what a person may have experienced ten or fifteen years ago in high school, and were not surprising discussions nor remarkably insightful. The author often makes adults seem clueless and unable to comprehend the motivation behind girls’ behaviors, as if this book is the light in the darkness of adult to girl interactions.

This book could be insightful for those more removed from the experience of high school girls or for  readers who are not female. While the book does offer some great practical advice and provides a springboard for addressing challenging topics, overall this book may not be the go to guide for college level advisors in helping girls to succeed in life.

Girls without Limits:  Helping Girls Achieve Healthy Relationships, Academic Success and Interpersonal Strength. (2013).  Book by Lisa Hinkelman.  Review by Lisa Scheese. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 208 pp., $29.95, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-4522-4121-0
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