Do you want to know a fun fact? I read this book twice. Here are my thoughts on Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy.
Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy
Publication Date: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Hot Key Books
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.
When I heard that Claire Hennessey was bringing out a YA novel, I was beyond excited. I have followed Claire on Twitter for quite a while and I find her to be an inspiring and intelligent woman. *resists urge to fangirl further* You can imagine my joy when I received a beautiful proof copy of Nothing Tastes as Good from the amazing people at Hot Key Books. I am definitely going to keep this forever – my first proof copy! *holds it up to the sky, Lion King style*
Nothing Tastes as Good follows Annabel, a teenage girl who has recently died from anorexia. In exchange for a message to her family, she is assigned to be a “helper” to Julia, an old classmate who is currently struggling with some of her own issues. Told from Annabel’s perspective, we find out what is troubling Julia and how Annabel tries to “fix it”, with her own special kind of sarky advice.
I’ll be honest, there is always a concern that novels featuring eating disorders can often make them look appealing and aspirational. I am happy to say that Nothing Tastes as Good does not glamorise the condition and is in fact a touching, poignant story about self image.
Let’s talk about the characters. Nothing Tastes as Good features a small handful of characters, but as the majority of the novel is focused on Annabel and Julia I’m going to focus on them too. With Annabel as the narrator, we get to know her deeply as a character and I loved her. She was deliciously snarky, and yes, whilst at times she was incredibly mean and critical towards Julia, she also had a vulnerable side. She really wanted to get a message to her family, and to do that she needed to help Julia, which she tried her best to do. Turning to Julia now, she sounds like a someone I’d be friends with. Intelligent, ambitious, as well as kind. Even though Annabel was my favourite character of the book, I still felt for Julia when she was going through her problems, and I rooted for Julia to be ok, regardless of whether that help came from Annabel or not.
The writing style of Nothing Tastes as Good was razor sharp, with a modern and mature edge to it that I enjoyed reading. Like I said previously, Nothing Tastes As Good does not glamorise anorexia or eating disorders; instead it looks at the way society can have a huge influence on the way we see ourselves, and others.
I awarded Nothing Tastes as Good 5/5 stars on GoodReads as I found it to be a thought-provoking, intelligent read. I know that this is a book that will stay with me for a while, and indeed will be a book I will re-read (again!) in the future. If you are wondering why I read it twice, it is because I felt that the book needed to be. The first time I read it, I had to put it down a lot (due to things going on in my personal life) and I felt that I hadn’t given it the attention it deserved. When things settled down, I sat down and made sure to fully appreciate every word the second time around. I even bought a copy for my Kindle so that I had no excuse.
I definitely think Nothing Tastes as Good would be an excellent choice for a book club. There are so many issues you could discuss. For example, is Julia really “fat”, or do we only think that because Annabel says she is? When Annabel is reintroduced to Julia, and she comments on her weight, she comes across as very mean. Is Annabel mean, or is this actually a “normal” thing for women to see and comment on when they meet other women? Was Annabel assigned to help Julia with her issues, or did Annabel need Julia to resolve her own issues? Oh, the list goes on! Maybe I should start my own book club to talk about this book some more… *muses over the idea*