By Jennifer Kornreich
Updated June 23, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

Hot on the heels of Model comes yet another exposé of a superficially glamorous industry. In Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters the arenas of abuse are the mat and the rink. Gymnasts and skaters primed for the Olympics, ostensibly paragons of health, suffer such pressure to maintain their lithe and sinewy frames that they resort to measures like chugging Ex-Lax by the bottle before weigh-ins. In engaging but wildly digressive anecdotes, sports columnist Joan Ryan reveals the horrors behind the graceful vaults and double axels, including fame-crazed parents and relentless coaches (one athlete injures herself to the point of paraplegia in competition; another snaps her neck and dies a vegetable). Ryan doesn’t bother with objectivity, but her demonization of the adults is understandable, considering that top gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi ”motivates” his students by comparing them to cockroaches — calling one ”pregnant spider.” Yet Ryan too often interrupts her subjects’ stories with old-hat explanations of cultural expectations of women to remain girls. Gee, next thing you know, she’ll tell us there’s a glass ceiling. B