1. Eat Slowly.

The hallway between classes is dense with uniforms and morning sweat by the time Kenna finds you, and she’s vulgarly radiant, a slice of emptiness in the gap between her thighs. Three classrooms away from Anatomy, she tells you she saw an agent yesterday.

Like for modeling? you ask, and a dark worm writhes in your throat when she nods.

Don’t be surprised. Limber, beautiful Kenna, your size-zero best friend, taut and small enough for all the boys to watch her with starving eyes. Even in the ugly uniform skirt, her legs stretch up to heaven.

Words are sliding from her mouth, voicemails you won’t listen to, telling you to come to castings and meet her agent and model with her. You shouldn’t be jealous.

But as you walk, you feel the fat on your thighs swaying, bouncing. God, when did you get so big? 120 pounds? What’s in a pound? 3,500 calories, 0.45 kilograms of fat. Sixteen years of overindulgence.

Jenny Hu

Jenny Hu (she/her) is an incoming freshman at Brown University. An alum of the Iowa Young Writers Studio and the Adroit Summer Mentorship, her work is forthcoming in or has been recognized by Split Lip, Bayou Magazine, and the New York Times, among others.

Patrick Ryan on “Six Rules to Lose Ten Pounds in Five Days”

There’s a terrific, chilling moment in our new issue of One Teen Story when the narrator acts out and is then asked by her mother if she’s okay. Show her your teeth, the narrator instructs herself, and tell yourself it’s a smile.

“Six Rules to Lose Ten Pounds in Five Days” is a story about body image, about friendship, about parenting and secrets and lies. It’s a story that takes us into the mind of a teenage girl crowded with external voices, including those of her thin and judgmental mother and her best friend, who’s on the road to becoming a supermodel.

The voice of the story couldn’t be more intimate. The loneliness is palpable. What I especially admire about the line I’ve quoted above is its complex layering of imperatives: Show her your teeth, and tell yourself it’s a smile. This line, I think, is a perfect encapsulation of the dynamics at the heart of the story: the painful process that goes into sculpting external appearances—contorting bodies to fit societal expectations of feminine beauty—the immense emotional and physical labor that goes into maintaining this “mask,” and the revealing moments when that mask threatens to slip.

Jenny Hu is one of the winners of the 2022 Teen Writing Contest, and One Teen Story is proud to be presenting “Six Rules to Lose Ten Pounds in Five Days” to our readers. Written by a talented new voice, it’s a story that packs an emotional wallop.

Q&A by Patrick Ryan

PR: Where did you get the idea for “Six Rules to Lose Ten Pounds in Five Days”?
JH: I’m a very reactive writer; practically all my work comes from my life or from those around me, in one way or another. In fact, most of what I write is nonfiction. This story could be about so many of the girls I grew up with—I wanted to write about the small violences of girlhood, specifically those surrounding beauty and the rupture of friendships.
PR: How long did the story take you to write?
JH: The story itself was written over two days, but I didn’t do anything with it for a couple months. The revision process took a couple of weeks—exponentially longer than the actual writing.
PR: Was there anything in the writing of the story that surprised you? Another way I ask this question is, how different is the finished story from the one you set out to write?
JH: The story ended up being much more about relationships than I’d first imagined. I set out to write a story about a girl struggling with body image and disordered eating, and it turned into one about mothers and daughters and best friends who don’t know how to be there for each other.
PR: What drew you to the second person point of view?
JH: I’ve always found the second person to be both intimate and alienating; the reader is forced into a position they didn’t ask to be in. I was interested in that distance (or lack thereof)—it forces the reader to have an empathy that is physical, visceral.
PR: What writers have influenced you the most?
JH: So many! Ocean Vuong is a longtime favorite, as is Carmen Maria Machado. Bhanu Kapil Rider does brilliant things with language. This particular piece drew a lot of inspiration from Julie Orringer’s “When She Is Old and I Am Famous,” which deals with similar themes of girlhood and jealousy.
PR: What did you do when you found out you were one of our Teen Writing Contest Winners?
JH: I couldn’t stop smiling! It was a really happy moment.
PR: What are you working on now?
JH: I have a novel manuscript that I’m querying, and I’m working on a creative nonfiction account of my last six months before college.
PR: What’s the best piece of advice about writing you’ve ever received?
JH: Write what you’re afraid of. I found my writing only started growing when I was able to be completely truthful about what I was hiding from.