Review Detail

Zoe Letting Go FeaturedHot
Young Adult Fiction 5870
Different side of eating disorders
Overall rating 
 
3.0
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
This book is an ambitious debut novel that takes a very different approach to eating disorders and recovery from anorexia. The novel’s titular protagonist, is sent to a rehab center but doesn’t know why—she’s so very different from the other girls, she doesn’t fit in, she’s not a freak like them, etc., etc. Most of Zoe Letting Go relies on mystery and, at times, it reads something like a psychological thriller, which may or may not have been a good stylistic decision, but definitely made this book stand out.

In the end, I really liked Price’s treatment of Zoe’s mental journey, her interactions with fellow patients, and the way everything at school functioned. At the same time, I didn’t really buy it. Once the reveal happens and the reader discovers why Zoe was really sent to rehab, things don’t make sense. In my opinion, Zoe was right in that she didn’t belong at that place (and certainly, she shouldn’t have been left to figure things out on her own—that defeats the purpose of therapy, correct?). Yes, Zoe was recovering from an eating disorder, but she also had a bunch of issues that could have been dealt with in more effective ways.

Another thing was the sense of menace that filled the atmosphere at the Twin Birch center. The other girls are out to get Zoe, but she doesn’t know why. She views them as evil wraiths, while she sees herself as mostly normal (which, outwardly, she is). Add in the missing places in her memory, and it really felt like Price was attempting to turn Zoe Letting Go into a thriller. The mystery and danger Zoe felt seemed at odds with her progress toward recovery.

On technical aspects. First, I didn’t feel at all that Price had a good grip on her characters. The book is narrated via Zoe’s journal entries and letters to her friend Elise, but the language did not sound like a teenager’s voice at all. I’m sure some teenagers use words like “rectilinearity” and “perplexing” and “somnolent” in normal conversation, but most don’t. Zoe didn’t seem to have a good reason to write in the way she did, being neither bookish, exposed to that kind of language regularly, nor in possession of above-average schooling. As a result, a lot of the language in Zoe Letting Go felt a bit stilted and inauthentic, though it wasn’t exactly bad.

And second, there were plotholes here and there. Some things didn’t add up, or plotlines were picked up and set aside without being resolved. Not a big deal, but the book did leave some lingering questions and confusion.

I did, in the end, enjoy this book. I thought it was well-written and interesting. Maybe I didn’t get all of it, but I did think the story was engaging. I could be tempted to pick up another book of Nora Price’s, should she choose to write another novel. Zoe Letting Go isn’t a remarkable book, but it’s not half bad.
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