Countless by Karen Gregory
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: May 4th 2017
Date Read: 26/06/17
Links: Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depossitory
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 …
Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.
I received a copy of Countless from Bloomsbury Publishing for review Consideration. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
Warning: This book and review both talk about eating disorder, please do not read on if this may trigger you in any way.
This is a contemporary YA with a difference. There is little romance. There is no magic cure for the problems that arise. The protagonist is no special little snowflake. This is a very real and raw portrayal of a very real issue. It battles mental health, family dynamics, social stigmas and self-image in one poignant story. Nothing is romanticised or sugar-coated.
Countless is a heart-breaking story about a very troubled seventeen-year-old Hedda who has been in and out of hospital most of her life for anorexia and now finds herself pregnant. It’s not a pleasant story but it is an important one that doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of mental illness and teen pregnancy.
“So this is the deal I’m making: Nia and I call a truce. When the baby is safely here and I’ve found it some proper parents, then Nia can have me back. All I have to do is eat for seventeen weeks and then everything will be like it was before.”
Hedda struggles with the decision of what to do with the baby once it arrives, and in fact most of the book was about what happened to Hedda after she had the baby, and the financial struggles as well as her struggles with her eating disorder. Pressure is put on her to eat meals & she comes to a compromise with Nia (her name for her Eating Disorder), that will allow her to eat for her baby’s sake until she gives birth.
The cover includes the phrase “Love means holding tight. Love means letting go.” And ultimately, that is what Hedda must do. Love for others matters, but so does self-love. And if we aren’t capable of that, how much can we really do for others anyways?
“Most of the time, what I’m sure of is that people will let you down so it’s best to give them a push in that direction sooner rather than later. People are pretty predictable.”
This gave a really honest insight into being anorexic and how hard it is to fight your own demons. The way in which Nia was always there looking over Hedda’s shoulder, ready to pounce and spit out spiteful names at her was something that really got me because it was such a powerful way to show the world just how life consuming having an eating disorder is.
This book is beautifully written and deals with such a raw and complex subject matter in a really authentic and meaningful way. This book is a very difficult read and I imagine that for someone with personal experience it may be difficult.
It took me quite a while to read this book. Not because it was bad – far from it. It was just a very hard read but was about a subject that is very important to read and learn about. This book was just an immense rollercoaster.
I really did like the character of Hedda though. She knew what had to be done and even though she was slightly stubborn at first, she had amazing character development and recognised that she had a support system around her that would help her with anything.
The book really shows the horrible way eating disorders can work – you know it’s causing problems, and you try to pull yourself out of it, but it’s your normal, it’s your control, and there’s a comfort in that, even if it’s not healthy. Anorexia is Hedda’s normal, something she’s dealt with most of her life, and even though it’s damaged her relationship with her family, her body, and her education, it’s something that’s always been there with her.
Although I found this book overwhelmingly sad, there is hope – I won’t go into too much detail but the ending does give a glimmer of hope, which is much needed after the heart wrenching events of the novel.