I am always looking out for new ways to spread mental health awareness and I think fiction is an area I often glaze over. However, I’m starting to see just how beneficial reading fiction can really be. Recently, I was invited to take part in the book tour for ‘The Year I Didn’t Eat’ by Samuel Pollen – my interest was sparked by both the focus on mental health and the fact that the target audience is young teens…
“14-year-old Max only has one person he can really talk to. her name is Ana – also known as anorexia, his eating disorder. Max writes to Ana every day. She feeds on his fears, encouraging him to lose more and more weight.
For Christmas, Max gets an unusual present from his older brother Robin: a geocache. He hides it in the forest near their house, thrilled by the anonymity it gives him. Anyone can leave Max a note – and soon, he gets one from the mysterious ‘E’. Could it be Evie, the new girl at school, playing tricks on him?
In the midst of a family crisis, Max’s eating disorder quickly deteriorates. Ana pulls him from his family and friends, until he feels totally alone. Can anyone help him find a way out?”
Sounds good, right?
Although a work of fiction, this novel draws on the author’s own lived experience with anorexia, creating what feels to be an authentic and raw piece of work. I can see how readers of all ages, but most importantly younger ones, will be able to connect to this and find some kind of solace in between the pages.
The main message of this book is an uplifting one – eating disorders are recognised to be difficult and painful for everyone involved, yet not totally unbeatable. Pollen demonstrates how there is a way out of this headspace, even if it may not feel like it at the time. I think this is a much-needed narrative amongst the proliferation of daunting stats surrounding eating disorders.
At the end of the day, all of us mental health writers, whether that’s bloggers or authors, have a similar goal: to raise awareness of the wide assortment of issues people can face with their wellbeing and offer some kind of comfort, support and tentative advice. And, in my opinion, ‘The Year I Didn’t Eat’ does a great job at that.
The Year I Didn’t Eat is avaiable to buy from today, 01/03/19.
If you are living with or supporting someone with an eating disorder, help can be found through the national charity Beat.
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This post was written in collaboration with ZunTold Publishing, all opinions are my own.