The Year I Didn't Eat
: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy gifted from ZunTold Publishing

Fourteen-year-old Max doesn't like to eat, and the only one he can confess his true feelings to is Ana---also known as his eating disorder, anorexia. In a journal that his therapist makes him keep, he tells Ana his unfiltered thoughts and fears while also keeping track of his food intake. But Ana's presence has leapt off the page and into his head, as she feeds upon all of his fears and amplifies them. 

Will anorexia continue to rule Max's life, or will he be able to find a way to live around his eating disorder? 

When I was asked to be part of the blog tour for The Year I Didn't Eat, I jumped at the opportunity. This copy was kindly gifted by ZunTold publishing, in return for an honest review. Although aimed at a slightly younger target audience than what I would usually read, this book is simply breathtaking.

I think any book that focuses on mental health is important, but when it discusses a more taboo topic in younger fiction: eating disorders, it's importance becomes even bigger. This book (and review) focuses heavily on anorexia - if this is something you are triggered by, please click off this review now; as I will be discussing this in depth.

The book focuses on 14-year-old Max. Although Max has a family that cares for him deeply, and a good support network at school - Max feels alone. And the only person he turns to in times of despair is Ana. Ana - aka anorexia; his eating disorder. Max intermittently writes letters to Ana throughout the book, and also has conversations with her inside his head. This part reminded me of another book I've read called Countless, which is also based around eating orders (and also amazing!). 

Although the story's main purpose is telling us about Max's anorexia - the novel is so much more complex. We learn how anorexia can, of course, damage the body, but it also can damage your mind, and every aspect of your life: friendships, family, your relationship with yourself; and I thought that was striking. 

Another thing I loved about this book was the stigmas that it managed to break around anorexia. Of course, there are people with anorexia who are put off by the thought of food, and those are the people we instantly think of. But this book focuses on someone who really is enticed by food, but is disgusted at the effects that it has on his body; and I think it's really important to acknowledge that everyone's story is valid, and just

The story never mentions Max's weight, or how much he has lost/gained on his journey, since having an eating disorder, and I personally think that makes the story far more relatable, and gives you so much more to think about than just how much someone weighs.

The way the disorder eats at his thoughts, and doesn't just starve him from food, but any other kind of happiness in his life is harrowing, and heartbreaking. But my favourite part about this novel is the quiet hope that you're met with the closer you are to reaching the end. That's not to say that Max's life gets easier - it doesn't. His older brother moves away, his parents are on the verge of divorce, he feels as though he's lost his connection with his friends at school; all whilst this disorder is warping any positive thoughts he has into negative ones

Max is a character that I found very easy to connect to; he's not the most likeable character (he is still a teenage boy!), but he's funny and he makes you feel one emotion in bucketfuls - empathy. Books like this are so important in helping people understand what someone in their life may be going through; or identify themselves that this is something that they're experiencing and that it's okay; or simply just become more educated on a subject matter that is so significant.

I feel like I've barely touched on the plot that surrounds Max's anorexia; but it is beautifully written, with Ana and her thoughts woven in perfectly. It's uplifting, moving, and definitely leaves you with a lump in your throat, and tears in your eyes. And knowing that the author has drawn from his own experience with eating disorders to write this novel, makes it all the more authentic. Absolutely brilliant - a must read. 

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