On a weekend in which I was reminding myself that ‘skinny means pretty,’ I finally had time to consume the dazzling wonder that is Claire Hennessy’s Nothing Tastes as Good. I was impossibly grateful. This is a book I needed in my life, and the timing could not have been more perfect.

Meet Annabel McCormack, a spirit guide who is disgusted by fat. To her, skinny means strength. Skinny is glorious. Skinny is everything she ever desired, so much so that it lost her her life. When assigned to help former schoolmate Julia Jacobs, an overweight teenager preparing to sit her Leaving Cert, she must speak in a way that makes Julia listen – but at first, it seems that all Annabel can talk about is her weight.

Rather than preaching on the dangers on eating disorders, Hennessy forces us to feel the despair of the sick. Annabel must observe Julia and her world — but in Julia’s comfort zone, all Annabel can see are threats. Carbs, calories, fats — all risks that one should not be willing to take, for “every time you say ‘no thank you’ to food, you say ‘yes please’ to skinny.”

Nothing Tastes as Good is the type of book you want to both gobble up as quickly as possible, but you try your hardest to drag it out, to devour every word, every beautifully crafted sentence. You savour the drama, the tension, the moments of suspense, not knowing where it will bring you next.

The characters will haunt you as you watch them fall. Their pain becomes your own and you cannot escape it. While Annabel attempts to force her unhealthy mindset upon Julia, you hope and pray that she fails.

Oh, this world. Once you hop in, it is impossible to jump out of again. Gripping, moving, challenging, honest.

Power is a major theme throughout. While Julia struggles with leading the school newspaper and fights to gain control of her diet, Annabel tells of how she finds fat revolting for it represents a lack of control. Both young women have felt the pressure to be thin, with the voice of a bully residing inside their minds. The girls clash regarding Julia’s lifestyle, as Annabel battles to influence her eating habits.

This intelligent exploration of anorexia brought on memories of When the Fat Girl Gets Skinny by Blythe Baird. “When you develop an eating disorder but you are already thin to begin with, you go to a hospital. When you develop an eating disorder but you are not thin to begin with, you are a success story.”

Hennessy has skilfully shown us the truths attached to such a statement. Anorexia may be purposefully hidden, but it is not a choice. It is a sickness that takes small bites from your soul, piece by piece, until eventually it has nothing left to take.

With such short chapters — each one only is only four or five pages long, — you will keep pushing yourself to read “just one more,” until it’s 2am and you find yourself finished and lost for words.

Before reading it, this book scared me. I was afraid that it would develop the damaging thoughts that swamp my mind. Instead, it has proven to be a much-needed reminder that to be thin should not be my only goal. It should not be your defining feature. I would not trade my life for skinny, and I remind myself of this when I consider holding off on meals for another hour or two.

If you struggle in a similar way, then this is a phenomenal must-read. You can buy Nothing Tastes as Good right here.

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