TITLE: Letting Ana Go
PUBLISHER: Simon Pulse
RELEASE DATE: June 4th, 2013
TYPE: Hardcover, 304 pages
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.
First, I want to say that this topic of discussion deals with anorexia and could potentially be a trigger. If you think it could be a trigger for you, please do not read the remainder of this review.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
In the tradition of Go Ask Alice and Lucy in the Sky, Letting Ana Go is written by an unknown author and (claims to be) taken from the diary of a girl who struggled with anorexia. I’ll cut right to the chase– the diary claims to be “left behind” which should give you a good indication that the main character will die. I noted spoilers, though, in case anyone didn’t pick up on that.
The character in the book is a healthy, female track runner of average weight in high school. It appears early on that she never really paid too much attention to her body– at least until their track coach passed out food diaries for them to keep track of what they eat. I want to mention the reason for this, though, as it wasn’t the coach that prompted the wrong turn. Her coach did this as an attempt to make sure the runners were eating enough to be healthy while running and burning the amount of calories that they do. However, things go a little haywire when the main character’s friend, Jill, shares that she is counting calories and obsessing over her weight.
What begins as being a supporter for Jill (who very clearly suffers from anorexia from the time she’s introduced) trying to “get in shape” for her dance auditions leads to a downward, out of control spiral and it doesn’t take very long at all. It starts with calorie counting–which I will say is not inherently a bad thing, but the problem really takes a turn for the main character when Jill suggests they lower their caloric intake little by little.
The rest of the book chronicles how a healthy, average weight teenage girl can go from a point where she never felt concern for her body size to someone who, in just a few short months, is so consumed with what she is eating (and not eating) that it’s all she thinks about. She becomes convinced that her mother being overweight is what led to her parents divorcing. She’s certain that if she gains anymore weight her boyfriend will break up with her.
Yes, there is an intervention for the character but it doesn’t last. She’s packed off to rehab where she does improve for some time but before too long, she’s back counting calories again. The end result isn’t that of a Lifetime movie, either. She doesn’t get better, get married and live happily ever after. She dies. I hate to be so blunt about it but it’s a serious problem and it has a serious consequence.
This book discusses a very important topic and one that touches a massive amount of people whether we admit it to ourselves or not. Body image is on almost everyone’s mind. It is highly likely that, at some point in all our lives, we have stressed over our weight, our figure and how others perceive our bodies. (I’ll kick my soapbox off to the side and try not to delve into a tirade against media, marketing and the women who eat it up consequently feeding the monster. Maybe that will be for another post. Or, you can just read my paper on the topic.)
While Letting Ana Go is no literary beauty it tells an important story. It could be the story of anyone we know–a sister, a cousin, a friend, a classmate or a coworker. I think it’s an important read for everyone–adults and teens alike. But I do want to point out that if you want your teen to read this book you need to be prepared to discuss it. I say this because even while I was reading it I was amazed at how little effort it really took for the main character to start shedding pounds. As someone who is currently concerned with weight and body image (not overly so, just want to be healthier) I found myself wondering if I could do it.
It can be dangerous to read this book if you have body image issues. While the work this book does is important it can also be looked at as a how to guide for slipping into the “pro-ana” lifestyle. It’s all too easy for it to happen.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please consider contacting the National Eating Disorders Association by calling 1–800–931–2237 or chatting with them online.
Additionally, if you are feeling suicidal or need someone to talk to please check out imalive.org or 7 Cups of Tea.
I would also encourage EVERYONE to visit Beauty Redefined who are raising awareness for women everywhere that we are worth more than our abilities to “look hot”.