Title: Letting Ana Go
Published in: 2013
Genres: realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, mental health/mental illness, epistolary
“In the tradition of Go Ask Alice and Lucy in the Sky, a harrowing account of anorexia and addiction.
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.”
Letting Ana Go is a novel told in diary entries about an unnamed 16 year old girl who develops anorexia nervosa. The main character’s name might have been Ana, but Ana could also be short for anorexia. The novel never mentioned her name or clarified what Ana referred to.
The main character’s story started when her track coach required the girls on the team to keep a food diary because other girls on other teams had been using the sport to hide their eating disorders. The track coach checked these food diaries every practice and were supposed to make sure they ate enough calories and prevent them from developing eating disorders. The main character and her best friend, Jill, found an app called CalorTrack, where you could track your calories from everything you ate. This app had a feature where you could print out your weekly or monthly reports and their coach gave them permission to just turn in those reports at practice instead of the food diary. The main character, however, decided to continue to write in the journal.
It first started as a goal to lose a few pounds. Early on in the book her father left her mother and she was convinced that it was because her mother wasn’t thin enough. It never said whether this was the real reason her father left or not, but that’s what she believed the entire time. That became part of her motivation to lose weight because she didn’t want to end up like her mother in that way.
It didn’t help that she was always around Jill. In fact, it was the opposite. Jill persuaded her to support her own weight loss goal by having her restrict her calories at first down to 1,700 and then to 1,200. Jill also showed her a short exercise that burned a few hundred calories at a time and introduced to a type of tea that’s made with a laxative. And in addition to that, Jill introduced her to a website where the users provided each other with “thinspiration” and talked about their “struggles” to become thinner. Jill herself developed anorexia too, and was later sent to a treatment center, but soon after being released, she started restricting her calories and exercising excessively again. It also wasn’t helpful to them that Jill’s mother had an unhealthy attitude towards food and weight as well and encouraged their weight loss goals.
There was a short time during which the main character tried to recover. She went to her individual therapy sessions and the group sessions. Sometime later her parents brought her to an inpatient treatment center and she thought there was hope. She learned that food, eating, and weight weren’t the real issues, but rather how she was feeling on the inside. She didn’t get to finish her stay there, though, because her parents found out that the insurance wouldn’t cover it and couldn’t afford it on their own. Afterwards, she went back to going to therapy sessions with her psychologist, but then she began skipping them. When her mother became upset with her over it, she told her that she didn’t care. She was convinced that anorexia wasn’t an illness and that her parents and doctors only called it an illness because they were jealous that they couldn’t be as “disciplined” and “strong” as she was. She and Jill both went back to the way they had been before therapy and disregarded everything they had learned. Ultimately, in the end, she believed that anorexia wasn’t an illness, that there was no problem, and she didn’t need help.
She believed that up until the very end of her life. She wrote in her diary right before she left to go over to Jill’s house. Then she died on the way there from cardiac arrest, as a result of her anorexia. This is told through an emergency call transcript, medical center report, and case report. I wish there had been more of an epilogue. I would’ve liked to see what happened to her family and friends, especially Jill.
Another part of her motivation to lose weight was for her boyfriend, Jack. She thought that being thin would make him like her more, even though in reality he liked her for herself, just the way she was. But despite Jack telling her that repeatedly and even giving her a necklace with the words “just like you are” engraved on it, her thoughts, disordered from anorexia, continued to think that if she lost more weight, he would love her more. She thought that she was fat and that he was repulsed by it, though actually he was concerned for her health and wished she could see she was beautiful the way she was before.
The ending was quite sad and tragic, but that was the purpose of it. The novel showed the harsh reality of eating disorders, with some of the horrors of having one and its effects, including even death. The book is a cautionary tale or warning about eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa. It showed that they can become addictive and that they aren’t something you want to have, develop, or wish you would have.
I thought Letting Ana Go was an interesting and realistic novel about anorexia. I especially liked that it was written in a diary format, since it made the book quick to read and easy to see the main character’s thought process. But, in my opinion, it wasn’t the best. There are other books about eating disorders I’ve read and enjoyed more than this one.
Rating: 4/5 Stars