Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Contemporary, Health
Release Date: July 14th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository
Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?
As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.
But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them.
This book was read by my fellow Book Club members and I for our August pick.
We follow this story from the POV of Annabel, a seventeen-year-old who recently lost her life to anorexia. In order to be granted a chance to pass on a message, she has to guide a soul in need of help. This is where Julia comes in. Julia is a student at the same school Annabel used to attend, before she was too ill. She’s passionate about journalism and involved with the school paper. She’s bubbly, has a great family, and a group of friends around her. Julia’s life seems ideal from the outside, but there’s so much more going on under the surface. Annabel has to work out what it is that Julia needs help with, and since Julia isn’t what society would class as ‘slim’, Annabel see this as the problem, especially given her own relationship with food.
Annabel isn’t a pleasant narrator at times. The words she says are sometimes harsh and cruel, and it’s impossible not to get frustrated at her ways of thinking. But it’s also insightful and important to read this story from the perspective of someone who doesn’t believe they had a problem. The reason why this book worked as well as it did was because it was told by Annabel instead of Julia. At times, her thoughts were quite chilling but also desperately sad. This book is brutally honest about eating disorders and I found the way it demonstrated what it’s like to have anorexia super important. Hennessy has researched perfectly and the writing is powerful, not shying away from how it not only affects the mind of the person suffering, but also what it does to the people around that person, those who want to help. It also shows just how quickly something like this can consume a person’s life.
Despite Annabel’s harsh narration most of the time, she’s also incredibly witty and I loved some of her commentary on the more mundane aspects of Julia’s life. I like a book that while dealing with difficult and gritty subjects, can also make you laugh a little. This story really took me through a lot of different emotions before I reached the end.
Also explored in this story are the topics of friendship and romance, changing and going wrong. Julia’s world turns upside-down throughout the course of this book as we see her start to grow apart from her best friend Deb, and we also discover what has been happening in her life that has pushed her towards food as a source of comfort. The element of mystery and waiting to see things unfold kept me hooked, and the chapters were often short, sharp, and fast-paced, keeping me tuning the pages.
Whilst this isn’t the type of book I would usually choose to pick up and read for myself, I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from this story. Whilst these characters are completely fictional, the situations they found themselves in are all too real. The ending made some very valid point about anorexia not being something we’re encouraged to talk and learn about, especially in schools, and it’s so important that we do. Eating disorders ruin lives every day, and the more we can learn to open our minds and understand them, the more we can do to raise awareness and help those suffering.
We’ll be discussing Nothing Tastes As Good on August 31st at 7pm, join in with @TheBookClubs using the hashtag #BCChat. The group are also talking about More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera but you don’t have to have read both books to take part, so feel free to drop by!