Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Book Club: Nothing Tastes As Good

This month, the wonderful, amazing, brilliant book fairies at Bonnier/Hot Key Books sent us some magic bound in soft, sweet-scented paper and midnight ink tattooed across the pages. Our carefully selected, hand plucked copies were tucked into their bubble wrap envelopes and lovingly sealed with our names and addresses - bound for the hungry eyes of the bookish.

Yes, that is quite the soliloquy, and no, I'm not sorry. On with the Review!

Nothing Tastes As Good

By Claire Hennessy 

That's right, people. I did an actual bookish photo shoot. Don't judge me.

This book is about Annabel. And Julia. And life in general. And, well, death, in general. Annabel isn't entirely happy with being dead, because it literally wasn't her fault, and if people had just listened to her, she wouldn't be here in the first place - she'd still be strong. Meanwhile, Julia is alive but not enjoying it all that much, and she feels like that really is her fault. She spends a lot of her time hating herself, hating her body. Too much to do, so much going on - so many feelings demanding to be felt, as Julia struggles to keep the lid on thir box. Annabel knows the answer: Julia needs to be thin. That will make her happy, obvs. She will be her strongest, most brilliant self. So Annabel embarks on her mission - the reason she's clearly been assigned to Julia: To make her thin. 

There's your summary - spoiler free, because I love you. Let's get onto the important themes. Because this book is FULL of them, and it made me all of the happy. Please see below:

A comprehensive list of important themes featured in the novel
Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy
by Katie the Unicorn

1. Firstly, you learn quite quickly to value your true friends. Value the people who stand beside you and stay there. The ones who will say, "Whatever you need," and offer to stay up late and watch the sunrise as they crack on to help, just to make you smile. Julia has a circle of friends of all backgrounds, and this is the key thing, I think - that it doesn't matter how long you've known someone. A person you've known for two months can influence you in a more positive way than anyone you've known for two years.

2. Next, and I quote, "Value your work." Value what you do - know how much it means more than how much it's worth, and never work for free, because you deserve to be counted. Later on in the book, the source of this advice is revealed in the pit of Julia's darkest secrets. And then I, personally, realised something different; something that came of this message, but is more important. Value your work, yes, but value yourself more. (This also ties in to not being a sorbet girl) Don't run yourself into the ground to produce that valuable work, because you are most important. You are most important.

3. One of my favourite and most personally relatable message is this: When someone tells you that you take something "too seriously," tell them to fuck off. Politely. But do it. Because you get to take things as seriously as you want to - you get to choose your own passions and your own destinies and all the things that will add up to make a whole you, and how big each chunk of the you is. You decide. You throw yourself in, because if it means that much to you, it's worth it, and you get out what you put in.

3.5. On the flip side, you need to learn to recognise when you are taking something too seriously. And my emphasis here is that you decide - you need to know that when something is dragging you down and making you unhappy, then it's time to pull back. You have to know that in yourself. Because you are most important.

4. Don't run. When you're at your worst, and you're feeling all those negative things, don't run from your friends. From the people that love you. Because they will still be there. They will take care of you no matter what and they will never think less of you. Seriously. Stay. Stay with them.

5. It's okay to ask for help. You don't have to prove yourself to anybody, and needing help isn't a bad thing. Knowing and respecting your limits is better than ruining yourself trying to do it all on your own. There is no shame in asking for help. And don't you dare run from it - you ask whoever you need, whether it's your friends, your bosses or teachers, or a professional. And you feel no shame.

6. Listen to your spirit guides. (I totally put that in for Annabel, heh heh)

7. In the end... Don't back down. Confrontation is terrifying and it feels like the world will end if you choose to decimate someone with your harsh words, but really, if it's worth it. Let loose. You tell that bitch to back off. Because, once again, you are most important.

8. And lastly. All important. Healthy > skinny. Happy > pretty. And loved > popular. Nothing tastes as good as healthy.

Onto the writing style, and I loved it so much that I had this book polished off in less than two days. The craft is sharp and snappy, with each chapter just a few pages long, probably ranging from two to ten sides. Annabel is cruel but witty, and softens throughout the book - her character evolving and learning in such a human way (despite being a member of the spirit world). Julia, too, changes - first according to what Annabel tells her, and then according to what she knows is best, with consideration for what Annabel thinks - it's a very beautiful transformation, and it makes a story involving a dead character surprisingly relatable. Claire kept me hooked with good pace and a really good variety of characters - a lot of author-advice involves cutting down on characters, but the business of this novel is what makes it feel so alive, and it has that special something that I dare say other books lack, because it has the other people. The people who see, the people who don't. The people who relate, the people who don't. The people with good intentions, the people with bad ones. I think Julia's interactions with all the people around her are lessons in themselves, because being a good judge of character can end up being your best form of defence. Of self-preservation. Of non-sorbet-ness. Julia's story is told almost entirely through these interactions - moments alone are rare (and when I say alone, it's the moments when Annabel is still kicking around) - and that's so clever, because that's how we go through life, really. So I really loved that - it was quite original.

You may notice that I've told you lots about Julia's story, but only the bare bones of Annabel's - that's on purpose. I'm saving Annabel's story for you. But I will say, I believe it is Annabel and Julia's opposite-ness that really makes them the perfect match for each other - it's why they worked well together and why they were successful. It's how they learned from each other. And honestly, I'm proud of them. They did good. And isn't that a lesson for us all? That it is our opposites who may be our closest allies? That can be on a similar scale to the book - the people at school you don't really talk to. But isn't it the same when you consider religions and races and sexes - all the ways we choose to divide ourselves. All the boxes we put ourselves in, then all the time we spend trying to claw out of them. This book could teach us a lot. (Including that Irish people rock)

I really hope you enjoyed this review - I try to make them exciting and different each time; I try to strike the mood of the book itself with my writing. And I hope I inspired some of you to have a read - I truly believe it's worth it.

Happy reading!

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P.s. here's a sneak peak into some of my upcoming personal reads (in my very cool new box) - I try to review these too because I love writing reviews so much, but I am a busy girl, so give me time.

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