Monday 29 August 2016

Book Club Picks #2 Nothing Tastes as Good

After Annabel McCormack dies, she is given a mission to help Julia Jacobs, a girl who she remembers being briefly aquainted with at her old school. However, Annabel is not told what she is meant to help Julia with, and assumes it is to help her with her binge eating and weight problem. Annabel soon finds out that there is more to Julia than meets the eye, and her eating problem may be in response to a much bigger problem.

 I have to admit that when Hot Key Books sent us this book, I didn't think I was going to like it. Although I realise talking about mental health problems is important, I have been reading a lot of similar books recently and felt as if I needed a break from this kind of thing. However, despite wanting to read something lighter, I did actually end up enjoying this book a lot more than I thought I would. It follows Annabel, a girl who has died from heart failure caused by her anorexia. Like many girls, Annabel believes that skinny is beautiful, but we can see from the start that she has an unhealthy obsession with it. However, Annabel believes that her way of thinking is right, and although she had been diagnosed with anorexia, she does not believe that there is anything wrong with her. Having an anorexic girl being set up to a girl who binge eats sounds like a match made in hell, and although it definitely was at the start, Annabel slowly realises that she is wrong, and comes to realise that she did have anorexia, and her family were just trying to help her. I loved the redemption that Annabel went through, and although she initially wanted her last message to her family to be angry for putting her into hospital, she ends up writing a heart warming letter to her sister instead. I found this to be extremely sweet, as her sister was in danger of becoming just like Annabel, which she eventually realised wasn't healthy.

I loved the fact that Annabel was the narrator rather than Julia. Annabel is an extremely unreliable narrator, which I found quite interesting, as it is up to the reader to realise how wrong her thoughts are. At the start of the novel, Julia doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by her weight gain, which made me wonder how “fat” Julia actually was. Julia only starts seeing herself as being extremely overweight once Annabel starts planting these thoughts into her head, and Annabel seems to think that anyone who doesn't have their ribs showing is fat. For all the reader knows, Julia could be a perfectly average sized person, but to Annabel that could be seen as huge. Weight gain and binge eating can be dangerous to a persons health, but the way Annabel went about it was very harsh.

Although the final message of this book is that being underweight can be even more damaging than being overweight, and that being fat isn't the worst thing a person can be, I did feel as if the book should have had some sort of trigger warning. Although I have never personally suffered from anorexia, I do have problems with my weight and sometimes feel horribly fat. Even though I realised how wrong Annabel's thoughts were, it is very easy to let a person with such strong opinions start manipulating you into thinking their bad opinions are right, especially if you are vulnerable to that kind of thing. Even as someone who isn't necessarily a vulnerable person, I started feeling guilty about my own weight, even going so far as to feeling guilty about eating a chocolate flapjack as I was reading the book. I felt as if people who suffer from anorexia could be triggered by this book, and that it should have at least had a warning on the back to explain this. The final message is about body positivity and that the most important thing is to be healthy, but I felt as if the lead up to Annabel's realisation of this could be harmful to certain people.

I was shocked by the plot twist in this book, as Julia has much bigger problems which triggered the binge eating to begin with. I loved how although she had been put in a horrible position, she finally realised she was not to blame, and, for lack of better words, called the person out on his shit. I also loved how Annabel was so supportive, and realised that her weight wasn't her main problem after all, and she needed help with a bigger problem.

I genuinely couldn't decide if I liked Gavin or not. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he starts flirting with and kissing other girls as a coping mechanism. I felt as if this was extremely unfair on the girls, as at least two girls who he did this to had developed feelings for him, which he seemed to not care about. Although he was sweet to Julia and seemed to genuinely like her, the moment when he thought she didn't like him anymore, he went back to kissing random girls. The fact that he didn't care that he was upsetting girls made me dislike him, but at the same time I loved that he was there for Julia when no one else was and helped her with the newspaper. Even after finishing the book, I still have mixed feelings about Gavin and still have no idea if I like him.

I feel as if this is an important book to read, and although it is a little difficult to get through emotionally, I am glad that I read it. The fact that it was narrated from the point of view of a girl who had died from anorexia was extremely unique, and the only other book I've read that I thought was a little similar to this was The Lovely Bones. The fact that mental health problems can get to the point of killing a person is barely ever taken seriously, so I felt as if this book helped to see the seriousness of it, and how people with mental illnesses often need just as much help as those with a physical illness

We will be discussing Nothing Tastes as Good along with our other book club pick, More Happy Than Not on 31st August at 7pm! Join in with the hashtag #BCChat

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