Review Blog

Oct 17 2017

Nothing tastes as good by Claire Hennessy

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Hot Key Books, 2016. ISBN 9781471405747
(Age: 15+) Mental illness. Death and grief. Anorexia and eating disorders. Abuse. Teen romance. Secrets. Food plays a very powerful role in this book; it is the beginning and end of the conflict. For Annabel, the narrator of this YA book, food (or the lack of it) led to her death. She is now in the afterlife and has been appointed as a 'post-life' guide (not unlike a guardian angel but without any spiritual or godly role). Annabel's role is to be the one to change the life of Julia - to rescue her, to guide her. But will her own issues impact her new charge. Will Annabel ever be able to connect again with her own family, now lost forever? At first glance Julia does not seem to need help. She is a gorgeous, mature, positive and motivated student with a passion for the school newspaper and a future journalism career... but something is going wrong with her relationship with food, with her body and in her relationships with others. Annabel can barely believe that this is the person that needs her help! The potential love interest in Julia's life is quite gorgeous (and perhaps too good to be true) and although he is not actually a Knight-in-Shining-Armour for Julia, his role does give this serious book a romantic flavour.
On one level this is a journey into the psychology of trauma, and the impact that this can have on our choices, but it is also an insight into eating disorders and the terrible tragedy that this expression of illness can be. Through a fairly normal teen coming-of-age plot, with parties, school concerns, and relationship beginnings and endings, Claire Hennessy has overlaid the internal dialogues, secrets and tensions of Julia, and has given us a powerful insight into the thinking of Annabel, the anorexic. As a consequence there is almost a risk that it is too real, and too confronting, and perhaps even dangerous for some vulnerable teenagers. Hearing the internal dialogue of the teens in connection to food issues, and counselling provided by adults and professional helpers is a reminder that Mental Health issues are not easy to deal with. Hennessy writes with a deft touch and insight into teen behaviour and thinking.
Although a very well-written YA Fiction novel, its content should be taken into account before recommending it, particularly if body-image issues are a risk.
Carolyn Hull

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