“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 in the grips of an eating disorder that controls her daily life”
Countless, the debut novel from Karen Gregory, had me completely hooked from start to finish. As a teenager, I’m not sure I would have picked this up to read. It’s very intense and covers some very difficult issues, something that might not have come up on my radar when I was younger, but I’m very pleased I had the opportunity to read it, thanks to Bloomsbury.
Hedda, the main character and narrator, has been battling anorexia her whole teenage life. She hasn’t managed to stay out of the unit (where young people with eating disorders go to receive care and counselling) for longer than 4 months at a time since she was first admitted. Now at 17 after watching her best friend Molly die from a similar disorder, she has made a promise that she won’t go back. In fact, Molly left her a list of things to do to get out of hospital and start living her life.
Hedda gets quite a shock though, when she finds out she’s pregnant. One of the things on the list from Molly was to lose her virginity, but there was nothing about becoming a mother. Hedda has her hands full with her anorexia, which she has personified as Nia. It’s all consuming, and she spends her days counting calories, walking for miles and avoiding anyone that might try to talk to her about her feelings. How can she possibly be pregnant?
Hedda is an inspiring young woman. She struggles so deeply with Nia, pregnancy, her family and then attempting to raise a child in a dingy little flat with a neighbour from hell, but all the time she perseveres, and never gives up. She knows deep down what is right and wrong, but admitting it and seeking help is the most challenging thing she has ever had to do.
Not only is this a beautifully written book, that I would highly recommend to young adults that enjoy real-life fiction, I would also recommend it to anyone that has battled with or knows someone with an eating disorder. It really opened my eyes to another world and shows just how all-consuming it can be. If this can help you to understand what a friend or family member is going through, I would urge you to give it a try.
Above all, you will really feel for Hedda as she tries her hardest to beat Nia so that she can be a good parent. It’s not without its setbacks, but it’s a story of human resilience and shows what lengths a person will go to for love.
The Boolino Team