Book Review: Room Empty (Sarah Mussi)

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

Pages: 304

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary:

Fletcher and Dani are fighting their own inner demons just to stay alive. Dani is ravaged by anorexia and hasn’t eaten for days. Fletcher is fighting to stay off the streets and to stay off drugs. Will their attraction to each other save or destroy them?

Both patients at the Daisy Bank Rehab Centre, Fletcher wants to help Dani find out about the Room Empty at the heart of her pain: What happened to Dani in that room when she was four? Whose is the dead body that lies across the door? Why won’t her mind let her remember?

As Dani and Fletcher begin to learn how to love, Sarah Mussi weaves an intoxicating story of pain, fear and redemption.

Review:

As you can see by the summary, this book is set in a rehabilitation clinic and may not be suitable for those who find themes of eating disorders, addiction, abuse and drug use disturbing or triggering.

This book was a bit of an odd one for me. I didn’t really get on with the narrative style: it might have been done to show Dani’s confused thought processes but I just found it jumped around quite randomly and it made it difficult to read sometimes.

There’s a mystery to the story as Dani tries to figure out why she was found in a locked room with a dead body when she was younger. This was interesting but didn’t always seem the focus point of the story: recovery and her relationship with Fletcher were the main bulk of it.

The relationship part was a tricky one. There’s so many books out there that have a ‘love cures all’ story line, which I hate. This didn’t go down that road but I still thought it could be problematic. It’s made clear that Fletcher is trying to ‘save’ Dani and that’s part of his own addictions and problems. I just didn’t like the way he would make deals with her to try and force her to eat. I also found Dani’s friend Kerstin really weird. She didn’t talk like a real person to me: I just couldn’t see her as anything other than a character.

I liked the characterisation of anorexia as an alien. This was something I’d not seen before and helped you to understand what Dani went through a bit better. It did take a little getting used to at first as I didn’t really understand what she was talking about when an alien popped up out of nowhere, but I soon got used to it.

This was an interesting read on a very dark topic – it’s not one to read if you’re after something light and pleasant. I don’t think it’s really for me but if you like the sound of it then give it a try!

3

Book Review: Nothing Tastes as Good (Claire Hennessy)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: July 14th 2016

Summary:

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.

Review:

This was a bit of a brutal read but I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure it would be suitable for someone with an eating disorder or who’s had problems with that kind of thing in the past: I found it a bit too close to the bone and worry it could be triggering for some.

Annabel is dead and to get a last message to her family, she has to help a soul in need. She’s been assigned to Julia and Annabel can see her problem straight away: she’s fat. But Annabel knows how to fix that and she uses all her tricks to get Julia thinking about food and weight the way she did when she was alive. But as her thoughts influence Julia, Julia’s own thoughts begin to change the way she thinks too.

It’s clear from the very beginning that both girls have problems with food and neither can see that at first. Although her eating disorder caused her heart to fail, Annabel is convinced she was in control and didn’t have a problem. Julia turns to food for comfort and to block out the hurt of the past. But she begins abusing food another way after Annabel’s attempts to ‘help’ her.

Annabel isn’t always a pleasant narrator and I sometimes found her voice hard to listen to. The way she looks at and judges Julia made me think about myself in that way as well – and a post-baby body doesn’t help! Annabel’s is almost like the voice of society – the kind that shows you beautiful, slim women in magazines and tells you it can be achieved my restrictive diets rather than healthy eating, exercise (and probably some airbrushing). At her worst, Annabel’s voice made me want to not eat the things I normally would, which is why I worry it could be hard to read for a person with a history of eating disorders.

She might be harsh and rude at times but I also found Annabel’s voice very realistic and funny at times too. Her running commentary on Julia’s life made me laugh at times and every little observation brought the book to life and made it real for me. It’s an interesting way to tell a book, with a bodiless, almost god-like narrator (though Annabel has some thoughts on God, being dead and all) seeing everything a girl similar to her does and thinks. The writing style is also very easy to read and I really flew through this book.

The ending was very emotional and did bring a tear to my eye. It’s not too happy and perfect but Julia gets some closure and a wonderful girl power moment and Annabel gets to send a message to her family, although not the one she was expecting.

This is a brilliant book in its own right but I also think it’s great for raising awareness too. An eating disorder is a serious illness and ruins lives on a daily basis. Not all are as extreme as Annabel and Julia’s cases but can still be just as bad: as a nation we’re obsessed with body perfection and diets and it’s easy to see how people develop unhealthy relationships with food. But as this book demonstrates, it’s not all about looking skinny either: eating disorders can be about control and make a person feel powerful even as they’re destroying themselves.

As I write this it’s Eating Disorder Awareness week. This is a great book to pick up if you’d like to learn more on the subject.

4