Release Date ~ June 4, 2013
Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster
ARC received from Simon & Schuster Canada for review
In the tradition of Go Ask Alice and Lucy in the Sky, a harrowing account of anorexia and addiction.
She was a good girl from a good family, with everything she could want or need. But below the surface, she felt like she could never be good enough. Like she could never live up to the expectations that surrounded her. Like she couldn’t do anything to make a change.
But there was one thing she could control completely: how much she ate. The less she ate, the better—stronger—she felt.
But it’s a dangerous game, and there is such a thing as going too far…
Her innermost thoughts and feelings are chronicled in the diary she left behind.
I've said in a number of my reviews that I'm typically not a fan of books written as journal entries. I haven't read very many "issue" books either - ones that are predominantly focused on exploring a heavy area. Letting Ana Go falls under both of those categories though, which is why I'd consider it to be a book that really pushed me out of my comfort zone as a reader.
And it's a good thing I did step out of my comfort zone for this one, because it was worth it. Letting Ana Go tackles challenging questions in a way that is well-developed and thoughtful, providing needed perspective on eating disorders.
- Perfectly paced plot:
You know exactly what Letting Ana Go is about before you even start reading about it. It's very clear that Ana is going to struggle with an eating disorder. But there is such gradual development here, it's like every spring when I watch for new leaves to grow on trees. I know they're coming soon, and it's a slow process that takes a few days and I try to pay attention for all the signs... but it isn't until it's too late that you realize the leaves are all out in full bloom. That was exactly how I felt as Ana's struggle with food and her body image grew increasingly complex and problematic. The pacing is absolutely flawless, which is necessary to make this believable.
- A surreal atmosphere:
The writing style creates a very dream-like quality to the story, which is furthered along by the plot and the gradual takeover by this disorder in Ana's life. I find very few books that are able to express so much confusion, obsession, and even fear within the character's head and truly articulate these feelings onto paper (another one I'd recommend for this is Dreamland by Sarah Dessen). It's one thing for a book to tell what happened, and another thing entirely for that book to live it. Letting Ana Go lives and breathes Ana's chilling experience with anorexia.
- There is hope in dark places:
This book left me with a very heartbreaking reminder of how dangerous eating disorders are, particularly to young girls it seems. But I like that even in the midst of all of this affliction, there are glimpses of hope and goodness. Jack is one of the sweetest, most caring, and brave characters I have ever read. He isn't just a love interest, he's a friend and he's a brother. And when there were other characters that made me so frustrated with their failure to see what was going on and how to respond to it, Jack dealt with it in the best way that he could- he loved.
I'm still feeling mixed by the ending, though. To be honest, I'm not sure how I wanted or expected this book to turn out but I was disappointed by the ending. It felt hasty. It felt disconnected from the rest of the novel. This is actually one of those rare books where a cliffhanger or an open-ended conclusion would have worked very well, but it wasn't used to its potential here. The ending didn't coincide with the direction the story had taken, and doesn't merge with the viewpoints of the characters as they had changed throughout the book.
Letting Ana Go brings the struggle of fighting an eating disorder to life for those unfamiliar with it, and equally sheds light on a number of problems which may have caused or contributed to anorexia creeping up on dear Ana. Ana feels like any number of girls I was friends with, grew up with, or went to school with and her mom is just as familiar in her own way. The book's strength lies in making Ana as easy to relate to as possible, so that the reader isn't left questioning why she would struggle with this. That's what is so scary about this book- I can see it happening to just about anyone I know. And none of us are entirely sure what to do about it or how to prevent it. But mostly, it's just a story about a girl, which is both beautiful and sad throughout all the good and bad changes during a few months of her life.