Review – Countless – by Karen Gregory

Countless

Title: Countless
Author: Karen Gregory
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: E-ARC via Netgalley
Publication Date: 4th May 2017
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Description

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Disclaimer

This book was kindly provided to me for honest review by the Publisher via Netgalley. This has not impacted on the content of this review, which it my own honest opinion.

Trigger Warning

This book deals with eating disorders, and mental illness and may be triggering to some people. Please be aware of this before picking up this book.

Review

This was not an easy book to read. It is dark, harrowing, honest and at times utterly heartbreaking. Hedda, the main character is seventeen years old and in the grips of an eating disorder, and her narrative shows the reader how overwhelming her struggle is. This book does not shy away from the harsh truth of her situation.

At the start of the book she is outpatient and about to attend her weekly session. She has spent a lot of time in inpatient units, and this is something that she thinks about quite a bit. She lists the bad things about the unit and the end of some chapters, how scary it can be. It’s not something that I’ve seen talked about much before in books. There are parts that look at the culture, the competitive element that can develop in these places. Nothing is sugar-coated or romanticised, everything we see feels really honest.

Lets talk about Hedda. She is in a really bad place both emotionally and physically. She is incredibly isolated, and spends a lot of time in her own head. As a reader, you are there with her. The hardest part of this book for me was wanting to help her, and look after her. This book really got to my emotions and made me really feel for Hedda and route for her. She was an incredibly complex and human feeling character, who is really well-developed over the course of the book.

Hedda’s personification of her eating disorder, Nia was an interesting inclusion. It gave it a presence and voice, which was really effective. It was especially powerful to see how Nia could creep up on Hedda and the impact it could have on her.

On top of dealing with eating disorders, this book also deals with teen pregnancy and the attitudes that people have regarding it. This book takes place in the UK, and the reactions and judgement that Hedda encounters unfortunately feel incredibly realistic. It’s an incredibly controversial topic in this country, and one that everyone seems to have an opinion on, and some people do feel entitled to let their thoughts be known. As a single pregnant teenager, relying on benefits to survive, Hedda faces a lot of judgement. Gregory makes it clear that the judgement is not necessarily fair or deserved.

Something that I really appreciated about this book what how it dealt with the romance aspect of the story. It’s not the main plot line, it’s not even the main side plot. It avoids the problematic love cures/fixes mental illness/eating disorders trope, which can be so harmful.

All things considered this is beautifully written, incredibly important book, not easy to read, but worth it. The sheer emotional power of this book is a testament to Karen Gregory’s skill as a writer. I actually found it really difficult to write this review and rate this book, because it was so intense, and there is so much to talk about, but I think I’ve settled on 4/4.5 Stars for this book.

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