Fiction Review: Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price

Zoe Letting Go
My rating: 2 1/2 outta 5 stars 

I don’t know where I got this one or where I even heard about it but it is highly likely that I was suckered in by the blurb. Stick “haunting” in your cover copy and this sucker is likely to buy it.

A girl's letters to her best friend reveal two lives derailed by anorexia in this haunting debut.

Zoe knows she doesn’t belong in a hospital—so why is she in one?

Maybe I’ve read too many books or maybe I’ve developed a super smart brain in my old age (hey, it could happen) but I think I know how the major plot twist is going to turn out. I hope I’m wrong. I’d rather be wrong than to predict the twisty-twist before I even get to page 50.

Here’s the quickie synopsis. Zoe finds herself being driven to some sort of recovery center by her mom. She has no idea why. She doesn’t have any problems requiring recovery, so says she (if only to herself). But does Zoe ask why any of this happening? No sirree. She sits there passively, letting whatever will happen just happen. She has no fight in her. What kind of teenager is this and why couldn’t I have given birth to two of them?! Just kidding kids, if you’re reading this ;)

So mom leaves with nary a word and Zoe is left with three staff members (the owner, a chef and the counselor) and five painfully thin and mostly unfriendly girls. The staff takes her phone and cuts off her access to the outside world. Still, continuing in Zoe fashion, she asks no questions of the staff or the other girls and instead steals a brochure of the facility to find out more. Because, why do things the simple way, right? The brochure, of course, is vague so Zoe just goes with the flow, wondering why she’s there and why she’s being forced to eat mounds of food. She knows she has some food quirks but she’s clearly not as troubled as the other girls. She spends her free time wracked with anxiety and writing journal entries and letters to her best friend Elise.

The story is told through these letters and journal entries and Zoe, I’m very sad to say, does not have a very compelling voice. She’s clearly depressed, extremely passive and an unreliable narrator and though the story was well written, her voice didn’t always feel authentically teen to me. She uses words I had to look up (not that that’s saying much!). Instead of being properly nosy and asking all of the questions that were bugging me, Zoe spends a lot of time musing on the preparation of food, the eating of the food and even going so far as writing down entire recipes. I really wasn’t looking for an earthy crunchy cookbook with a big helping of sadness when I picked up this story but that’s pretty much what I got.

Though the story was readable, I just didn’t find it all that haunting in any sort of emotional way and that was a problem. Perhaps my heart is all dried up, I won’t argue with you there, but I didn’t feel much while reading. Everyone was just sort of meandering about, doing their jobs and doing what they were told to do to get better but I never felt emotional for any of them. I only kept going to see if I was right about that twisty-twist ending. Excuse me a moment while I gear myself up for telling you about that . . .

So, as you’ve probably guessed, I didn’t peek at the end but I should’ve. I would’ve saved myself many hours of precious and hard to come by reading time. Much to my dismay . . .

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