Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: July 14, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
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.
Nothing Tastes as Good, a fictional novel written by Irish YA author Claire Hennessy, communicates the candid and heart-breaking issues of teens with mental illnesses and eating disorders. Strong-willed Annabel is pretty, thin and dead but she’s not giving in. Annabel is adamant that she was right all along and whenever she said no to food she was saying yes to being skinny. Sending messages from the grave isn’t as easy as Annabel would like; before she is granted access to her family – to give them her last message – she must help Julia.
Written from Annabel’s point of view, the reader also got a sense of Julia’s perspective. Sent to guide and help Julia, a teen with over-weight issues and a negative body image, Annabel comes to realise positive self-image is not as straight forward as stopping Julia from eating. It becomes obvious that while Annabel has been tasked to help Julia; Julia comes to help Annabel too. The ending illustrates Julia’s realisation that she needs help and Annabel is the strength she needs to go seek it.
Annabel is a stubborn and determined character. Even though she thought about giving up on Julia, more than once, she never did. In the end, Annabel was granted permission to send a final message to her little sister and the letter she wrote was both heart-breaking and poignant. Although, it is Julia’s character that (I personally feel) was most relatable. Her struggle with weight control, her negative-body image, feeling of isolation, differences with friends and pressure of school and career choices, outline just some on the many pressures teens face daily.
Hennessy is a candid writer and I merit her for it. She didn’t hold back on the harsh realities of an eating disorder; at times, it was difficult to read but this is unquestionably a book society needs. Hennessy was careful to never preach to the reader, both Annabel’s and Julia’s experience was effective in illustrating the dangers of anorexia; additionally, highlighting the faults of censoring eating disorders. I would recommend this book to readers aged 14 +; however, I also think it’s an insightful book for the older reader.