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The Year I Didn't Eat by Samuel Pollen - Review

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Where did I get it? I bought it recently - the author was one of those featured in NYALitfest so I bought this when I bought a few from there. 

What's it about? Max is fourteen and at the beginning of the book it's nearly Christmas. Max has anorexia. His family all know about it - his parents, who have problems of their own, and his brother Robin - and are trying to help, but can't always. Max has a therapist, who gives him homework like 'eat a chocolate bar'. Max has two friends at school, Stu and Ram, but he feels like his disease is pulling him away from them too. There's also a new girl at school, Evie, who is quite weird but who seems to like Max... 

For Christmas, Robin gives Max a geocache. This is a box that anyone can set up - it's a real thing! - where people visit them by following directions to them and leave little notes. Max begins to receive notes from a friend... 

Obviously, massive trigger warnings for this book for anorexia, anixety, calorie counting, body shame, and so on. I found this a difficult book to read and I'm 37. I think it gets over perfectly how anxiety inducing living with an illness like this is. 

I liked it - I liked Max and I wanted him to be well. I liked how the book was set out and how so much happened in it. 

What age range is it for? I realise Max is fourteen, so maybe it's okay for fourteen year olds - but this is a really tough book. Take care of yourself or your teenage, please. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I mean yes, obviously. Max is very, very unwell. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think there's a little bit about prescription drugs 

Is there any talk of death? Yes. BE CAREFUL. I can't say this enough! 

Are there swear words? No 


What criticisms do I have? Well, first of all, my book was very badly proofread which annoyed me. There were grammatical errors all over and there was an English teacher called Miss French and then the school nurse was called Miss French at one point but then in the same paragraph her name was Miss Finchley. Annoying!

Secondly, I would have liked more exposition at the end. I felt like it ended quite abruptly and there were a couple of story threads (to do with the other people in the book mainly, although somewhat to do with Max too) that I would have liked to know how they were resolved.

Thirdly, I would have liked to know how Max's family found out he was anorexic to start with and how he started getting treatment. 

Would I recommend the book?  Yes, but please be careful 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I have been hearing really good things about it. 

What do I think of the cover? I quite like how it's stylised.  

What other books is it like? The obsessive thoughts part of it really reminded me Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne 

How many stars? Four out of five. I did like it, but with caveats 

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