Review: Letting Ana Go

Letting Ana Go by Anonymous
Release Date ~ June 4, 2013
Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781442472235
ARC received from Simon & Schuster Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date ~ April 2, 2013
Poppy ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316212823
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 
Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? 

Sometimes you just need a happy book, one that will pick you up off the ground and set your feet on the ground again. I read This Is What Happy Looks Like while studying for my final law school exams. You know what? No regrets. I wanted a book that would cheer me up, and give me an added jolt of courage.

Jennifer E. Smith's newest book delivered exactly that. Just like there is comfort food, there are comfort books. I began reading this book with that expectation, and I wasn't disappointed. Plus, I really love the movie You've Got Mail which this novel was compared to, so I had to give it a shot!

  1. Romance in its simplest form:

    The love story isn't an overly complicated one, flush with frustrations and problems. It can seem like a number of YA books include more forbidden romance, so this was a welcome change for me from what I typically read. There's something fresh about this simplicity, and I loved that Ellie and Graham were able to recognize this, too.
  2. So much more than a love story:

    For me, a good romance is just one part of the overall story. I think this is especially true in contemporary books, because too often it seems to me that they focus on the romance and pay very little attention to anything else. The problem with that is that there is the potential to explore so many other ideas, and I love that Jennifer is an author who acknowledges this and incorporates it into her writing. The relationship between Ellie and Graham is incredibly important (and sweet!), but there's so much more to their lives than each other that it was integral to the story that their individual lives be explored as well.
  3. Quirky, fun characters:

    I loved this SO much. Characters need to stand out to me- from each other, from the setting, and from OTHER characters in OTHER books. Graham and Ellie both have their own unique traits, totally uncommon but real enough for them to be believable characters. Their struggles are honest and completely plausible, but they're still unique people. That's a tricky balance to accomplish, but it's successful here.
By the time I finished reading, however, I couldn't help feeling that it was a bit anti-climatic. The hardcover is over 400 pages, but it still felt short somehow. I think that can be attributed to the ease of reading it, while not having too much actually happen.

I also think it helps to go into this book, knowing that you shouldn't expect anything extraordinary but instead more of a quick, sweet read. Because that's exactly what makes it so enjoyable!


Blog Tour: The Moon and More

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Release Date ~ June 4, 2013
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780670785605
ARC received from Penguin Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?
Sarah Dessen's devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

Guys, I have been reading Sarah Dessen for FOREVER. I grew up on her books, and because of that I feel like I've been stalking her newest release ever since I heard about it... over a year ago. Believe me, that has been a difficult wait.

The Moon and More was a different experience for me as a fan of Sarah, because it's the first book  of hers that I've read after I've grown up (a bit.. I'm not sure I'll ever really feel grown up). And it was really cool that Sarah's newest book is actually perfect for someone who feels like that... like they're a little bit in between.

  1. A novel for both old and new fans alike:

    I would easily recommend The Moon and More to readers who may be unfamiliar with Sarah's other books (after The Truth About Forever and This Lullaby, of course) but I was equally pleased that it turned out to be so enjoyable for longtime fans as well. The Moon and More stands out among her other books, and it has a distinct feel to it. All of Sarah's books deal with change and coming of age in one way or another, but The Moon and More is a bit more traditional in handling this. Featuring a girl who has just graduated high school and is looking ahead to the next chapter in her life- that's something just about everyone can relate to. It's Emaline's authentic voice as she navigates this transition that endears her to readers.
  2. An ending that focuses on contentedness:

    I love a happy ending, I do. But sometimes? Those happily ever afters just don't fit. The Moon and More isn't a sad ending by any means, but there's something a little bittersweet about it. Change means something fresh and exciting is coming, but it also means letting go. And just because something is new, doesn't make it good for you. But this ending was satisfying. It's more about being content, then being happy. I like that.
  3. Emaline has a unique voice, and an honest one:

    Emaline isn't so sugary sweet. But she isn't utterly whiney either. She falls somewhere in the middle... and probably sounds about the same as I did at 18, or any of my friends, or even you. (Possibly even my little sister next year... eeek.) She's a bit sassy, but not unbelievably witty. She makes stupid little mistakes but most importantly, she doesn't dwell on them. Her family feels so real, too. They aren't flawless, but they're easy to love and quirky in their own ways. Honestly? Her family was probably my favourite aspect of this book! And the romance was VERY unexpected, so pick this one up if you appreciate a different look at teen romance. 
I loved Emaline because I felt like I could really relate to her, with where I am now. I'm a wee bit older than she is during The Moon and More, but I'm still a little bit in that "in between" stage of growing up. It's weird and kind of makes me feel like this (enjoy that little video - you're welcome). 

I was disappointed with how much attention some secondary characters received though, in lieu of others. Truthfully, Emaline's close friends are far more intriguing than her love interests. I appreciated the love story... but not until the end of the book. Mostly because it wasn't what I expected, and that had its advantages and disadvantages. (Theo is just dull. Sorry, Theo-fans.) And I wouldn't say this is Sarah Dessen's BEST book, but it's definitely one of my top picks. 

The Moon and More is proof that I'll never be too old for a Sarah Dessen book. And I'm so pleased that I can feel like these books are growing up right along with me. 

Also- this book trailer? So cool. 

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