hot key books

Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy – Papberback, 336 pages – Published July 14th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I happened to see this book by chance, in my local library. I was drawn to it because of it’s cover, it’s title – I’m anorexic, and I happen to be drawn to things relating to mental health. It doesn’t expressly say on it that it’s about anorexia, but the cover made it pretty obvious to me. A warning to anyone that wants to read it: it’s hard. If you suffer from something like this, like me, then you will probably have difficulty reading something so close to home. Especially if you’re recovering. But it gets better. (I mean the book; I’m not using that “life gets better” crap.)

So Annabel is dead. I’m studying The Lovely Bones at school so the whole beyond-death narration isn’t that special to me now. But Hennessy does it pretty differently to Sebold.

We don’t know much about Annabel, not at first. But we begin to learn about her while she helps her assigned “soul-in-need” – The Boss (definitely not God) has promised her a final communication with her family if she helps Julia. And this looks easy, at first – Julia is from Annabel’s old school, with a loving family and good grades. Everything is fine, except she’s fat. Annabel thinks this should be easy – after all, she’s an expert in weight loss. She lost weight until she died.

But Annabel soon finds out that Julia’s issues are a whole lot more complex than her weight. At first, losing weight helps. But then her old scars come back to haunt her, and Annabel realises that maybe losing weight isn’t going to fix all her problems.

Aside from the obvious issue, this book does talk about a lot of important topics. It covers friendships and relationships, like most YA novels do, but it also combats ideas on feminism, affairs with older men, and people all having their own hidden demons.

At first, I wasn’t keen on Annabel. I wanted to like her – I felt I should, because I could relate to her story so much. But she was a bitch. She wanted other people to be like her, and rather than encouraging recovery and health and happiness, she shared tipped on weight loss. It really did hurt to read. Her ideas on “perfection” and being weak for eating just really hit a nerve for me. Not because it was wrong (though I’d never encourage an eating disorder in someone else), but because it’s exactly how I’d think about myself. Her behaviours, her worries, her anger – they were so real.

But Annabel, despite being dead, grows alongside Julia. Yes, she tells Julia to starve herself and run on an empty stomach and hate herself, but eventually she starts to feel for her. She wants Julia to combat her issues, to actually be happy. And she realises, despite having been so upset with her old friends for recovering, that maybe she wasted her life. Maybe she could have been something more, rather than striving to be less.

I found this really emotional. Annabel’s love for her sister, the sister she neglected for years while she was focused on her goals, and the future she cut short. The way Julia’s life changed when her passion for writing and journalism was overtaken by her obsession with food, calories, exercise. It’s so real and so sad. And the ending isn’t “happily ever after” – Annabel’s still dead, Julia’s in counselling – but it’s real. It gives hope that things can change, that Julia can really achieve happiness.

At first, I didn’t like this that much. I know Annabel is just a character, but I just didn’t like her. She was one of those girls that makes anorexia sound like a choice, a lifestyle, and I hated that. But later she realises she is sick, and I actually felt sorry for her. I was sorry that she had been brainwashed by her illness into believing she was doing what was right.

The only reason I’m giving just 4.5 stars to this book is because Annabel was a bitch. Yes, she is a character, and yes, she grows considerably throughout the novel, but her encouragement of EDs just drove me insane. Personal pet peeve, I guess.

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Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira - Paperback, 323 pages - Published May 1st 2014 by Hot Key Books

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – Paperback, 323 pages – Published May 1st 2014 by Hot Key Books

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on this book, so I honestly had no idea what to expect.

Laurel loved her sister. She wanted to be like her, she wanted to do everything with her. But she let her go, and now she’ll never see her beloved May again.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many subjects and issues Love Letters to the Dead addresses. As well as the obvious matter of the loss of a loved one, this book includes relationships and break-ups, homosexuality, abusive families, broken families, and a whole lot more.

Written as (you guessed it) letters to the deceased, we learn about Laurel’s life, current and past. She tells us of her problems with Sky, the things that happened before her sister died, her favourite memories of May, her mixed feelings for the mother who left her, and her struggle to fit in and be like May.

The way the story of Laurel and May’s past slowly comes out is through memories and confessions. You’re given little tasters of something, which leaves you waiting to find out more. One thing I wasn’t so sure about was how Laurel accused Kurt Cobain of being selfish for committing suicide. This is a very controversial and touchy topic, but her accusation really didn’t sit well with me. I suppose I’m taking it too seriously, but I know how much something like that can hurt someone. Suicide is not selfish.

The writing style is relatively simple, and definitely reminds me of a teenage-girl’s diary. It’s especially un-letter-like when Laurel tells each person about themselves… I mean, I get that the book needs to have references included for the readers, but you wouldn’t write a letter to someone about their own childhood.

At first, I really wasn’t sure about this book. I was really looking forward to it, and the idea of a book made up of letters is really great. It was only around a 3 for me for a while, but I think it managed to work it’s way up to 4 stars in the end.

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Book Review: We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - Paperback, 227 pages - Published May 13th 2014 by Hot Key Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Paperback, 227 pages – Published May 13th 2014 by Hot Key Books

I honestly had no idea what to expect with this book. Even part-way through, I wasn’t sure. But as the end drew nearer, I began to fall in love with the heartbreak and tragedy within the pages.

It tells the story of the Liars: Cadence, Gat, Johnny and Mirren. Mirren, Gat, Johnny and Cadence.

The Beautiful Sinclair Family spend their summers on Beechwood Island every year. But the aunties are fighting over Granny Tipper’s possessions after she passes away, and the family is being torn apart. The Liars want their idyll back; they’ll do anything to fix the family.

This is a love story, and it is a tragedy. Cadence begins to remember the horrific events of summer fifteen, when she was involved in a terrible accident. Her memory comes back in pieces, and she has to fit the pieces together like a jigsaw. When the final picture is complete, I was so shocked – it made too much sense, yet no sense at all.

The writing style is simple and to the point, but also full of wonderful metaphors. There are extracts of a fairytale variation every now and then, which I personally think was a very nice touch. It’s rather unique in the way it’s written, but in a good way. It has several phrases that are repeated throughout the story, or developed upon, which works nicely in this book.

Also, there are a few visual aids for the story; a may of the island and a family tree of the Sinclair family. While that could be seen as childish, I appreciate the diagrams as they help to keep track of the characters, though I did get a little lost and confused at times still.

Map of Beechwood Island

Map of Beechwood Island

Overall, I think We Were Liars deserves 4 stars out of 5. It’s different, unexpected, and full of emotion. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it really grew on me as I read.

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