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The Year I Didn't Eat

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"Some days are normal. Some days, everything is OK, and I eat three square meals, pretty much, even if those squares are ridiculously small squares. Some days, I can almost pretend there’s nothing wrong."

Max is 14, and anorexic. His eating disorder has pretty much taken over his whole life.

His brother, Robin, gives him a geocache for Christmas. Max hides it in the forest near his house. Before long, he gets a note from ‘E’. But who is E? Is it Evie, the new girl at school, playing a trick on him?

In the midst of a family crisis, Max’s eating disorder quickly deteriorates. Anorexia pulls him further and further away from his family and friends, until he feels totally alone. Can anyone help him find a way out?


First published February 25, 2019

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Samuel Pollen

2 books31 followers

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5 stars
283 (34%)
4 stars
353 (43%)
3 stars
132 (16%)
2 stars
35 (4%)
1 star
10 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Lucy Powrie.
Author 5 books5,588 followers
November 30, 2018
Samuel Pollen is a new and exciting voice in teen fiction. The Year I Didn’t Eat offers a sensitive and honest insight into what it’s like to live with anorexia, whilst also being full of warmth and heart. I loved it.
Profile Image for Lizzie Huxley-Jones.
Author 7 books203 followers
March 1, 2019
I absolutely loved this important, beautiful little book.

Max loves birds, wants to be a zoologist, has just discovered geocaching, and has anorexia. The novel follows him through the realities of eating disorders -- how they feel and how they make your thoughts distort -- but also how he copes with changes in his family, new friends, a new school year. It is overall a beautiful novel, that ends with a positive note and hope for recovery.

In terms of content notes, BMIs are never mentioned. Max’s weight never mentioned, though how much is lost or gained is. I also really loved the use of letters to Ana, his anorexia — very Dear Evan Hansen — and the insert of Ana’s voice throughout the text. On a personal level, as someone who has had their brushes with disordered eating and certain feelings about food that are not normal, I found this book helped me understand some of those processes and think through it. I think a lot of other autistic people would feel the same

The prose is beautiful, and I found myself both welling up and laughing out loud at different points. The secondary characters are very well fleshed out. In terms of age suitability, The Year I Didn’t Eat sits nicely in that upper middle grade lower YA zone, so should be suitable for strong mature readers from year 6 up, and should be in all school libraries.

This is a beautiful and hopeful novel, and comes with an extremely strong recommendation from me.
Profile Image for Erik Fazekas.
479 reviews196 followers
July 5, 2019
O tejto knihe takmer nikto nevie, s takou otrasnou obálkou sa ani nečudujem.
Mne ju do pozornosti dala Alice Oseman (jop, od Hertstopperov ju followujem ako divý), ktorej sa doma zjavilo ARC.

Toto je jedna z najlepších YA kníh, aká sa mi za posledné roky dostala do rúk. Prečítaná, ehm, zhltnutá na 3 cesty vlakom do práce. Nedokázal som sa odtrhnúť. Poznáte také tie knihy, kde vám hlavná postava úplne sadne, a vy ste s ňou od prvej chvíle? Tak toto bol presne ten prípad.

Ja sa strašne teším, keď knihu budúci rok vydáme pod CooBoo, potom vám o nej ešte poviem viac. Ale téma jednoduchá vôbec nie, to je to napísané tak, že vám neostáva iné, len to prečítať. A ostať ako mechom ovalený. Keď sa dokopem k napísaniu TOP 2019, toto bude na vrchole aspoň za prvý polrok.
Profile Image for Katie.
111 reviews34 followers
February 23, 2023
Ľudia, ďalšia kniha o ťažkej, no dôležitej téme, pred ktorou by sme nemali zatvárať oči.
Profile Image for Claudia P. Torkan.
669 reviews61 followers
September 25, 2022
"And here’s the important bit. The bit I got really, really wrong. Those people who are trying to help you? Those people who end up saving your life?
They don’t need to understand everything."

Táto kniha by podľa mňa mala patriť do povinnej literatúry. O poruchách príjmu potravy by sa malo hovoriť a neprehliadať ich. Len preto, že o veľa týchto ľuďoch nevieme, prípadne si zakrývame oči pred pravdou, neznamená to, že niekde v tichosti netrpia.

Keď som príbeh čítala prvýkrát, doslova som ho zhltla, pretože som sa od Maxovho príbehu nemohla odtrhnúť. Pri druhom čítaní som si však všimla najmä detaily, ktoré mi predtým ušli. 😁

Max má 14 rokov, keď mu diagnostikujú anorexiu. Na svet a svoje telo sa pozerá inými očami ako ostatní. Hlas v jeho hlave, Anna, mu stále našepkáva a radí, aby nejedol. Počíta mu kalórie každej cestoviny a všetkého, čo vezme do úst. A Max jej nechce veriť, pretože vie, že sú to kecy. Vie, že ten hlas ho balamutí, no ako mu má odolať, keď veci, ktoré mu vraví, znejú tak logicky? A keď to vyzerá, že mu nikto iný nerozumie?

Tento rok som nič nezjedol si zaslúži každé ocenenie, pretože to, čo sa podarilo napísať autorovi,nezanechá jedného čitateľa chladným. Spôsob, akým spolu s Maxom spoznávame svetlé, no i temné zákutia jeho choroby, je jemný, a i tak citlivý. Až pričasto som si počas čítania vravela, aké má Max šťastie v nešťastí, pretože mal okolo seba rodinu. Mal pri sebe ľudí, ktorým šlo o jeho zdravie a chceli mu pomôcť najviac ako to len vedeli.
Samozrejme, prvý krok musel spraviť Max. No ako nám povedal, ak niekto potrebuje pomoc, nie je hanba požiadať o ňu, pretože ľudia vás vypočujú. A, mnohokrát, vám pomôžu.
Profile Image for Cherlynn | cherreading.
1,565 reviews768 followers
December 9, 2021
Pros: A male protagonist, unique insight from a boy suffering from an eating disorder, dealing with the subject matter of what is typically known as a female illness.

Cons: Everything else and everything about the male protagonist.

Despite having had similar struggles, I found it very hard to relate to Max, whom I thought was whiny, selfish and self-absorbed. Not sure whether it was the execution or writing or diary format but I'd hoped for a different ending. I would have also preferred for this book to explore the struggles of living with someone who suffers from an eating disorder.

The book didn't do justice to the side characters or give them proper closure. I wanted to know more about Robin and Ram and Stu and Evie, but the focus was all on Max. Despite his friends' interesting backstories, none of them were fleshed out or had their issues resolved. There was also no resolution or final conversation between Max and Evie after that scene in the classroom. I also feel very sorry for Max's parents but he is obviously too self-absorbed in his issues to notice whatever else is going on outside his life, besides assuming that everything is his fault (again, self-absorbed).

"Because he's suffering from a mental illness" is no excuse for his behaviour. Instead of showing how mental illnesses and eating disorders take a toll on everyone around the sufferer, this book only makes me loathe Max.
Profile Image for Whitney.
341 reviews
March 21, 2019
I grew up thinking that anorexia and bulimia were only diseases that women got. Nobody directly told me this, I believed this because any book I read or anything I saw in the gossip magazines talked about how these diseases were affecting women, not men. We rarely talk about the men that deal with this horrible disease and this impacted how I understood eating disorders. When I was older I learned that both men and women suffered from these diseases. But still, it boggles my mind that I could have been so influenced by the media, books, and movies to believe that men were unable to go through this. I am so happy that this book was written because it gives a voice to boys and men who have struggled with an eating disorder. We can't forget that this is something that everyone can experience. I applaud this author for writing this book and sharing some of his story as well.

I'm giving this three stars because there were some aspects of the book that left me a little confused. I felt for Max and what he was going through but sometimes I just felt lost. Overall, I think this is an important book and I would recommend it. Let me know your thoughts!
Profile Image for Gena-mour Barrett.
23 reviews6 followers
April 2, 2019
I struggled to get through this, despite the topic being something I find particularly important. But an important topic alone cannot drive a narrative and I found myself halfway through the book wondering when anything was going to *happen*. Some parts were overexplained in a way that felt like a memoir and I wish the character of Evie was built out a lot more than it was. Overall, a book that sheds light on a significant issue, but didn’t quite hit home for me.
Profile Image for lucy♡.
800 reviews3 followers
April 8, 2019
“THE YEAR I DIDN’T EAT” by SAMUEL POLLEN is a beautiful and honest portrayal of a teenage boy with anorexia.

This was one of my most, if not my most, anticipated releases of 2019 because an own~voices novel featuring one of the most overlooked and ignored victims of eating disorders? Yes please!

This book follows Max, an aspiring zoologist, lover of birds, brother of Robin and anorexia sufferer.
Max was a protagonist I instantly connected with. He’s raw and relatable and so precious. I felt my heart breaking the entire time as I read about his story and the things he was enduring. All of his struggles seemed so real to me and had my heart hurting.
Max is an incredibly flawed character. He’s hot~headed and makes choices before considering consequences but that’s why he felt real to me. He didn’t feel like a character, he felt like somebody I’d known my whole life.

I really adored the family dynamic. Max’s older brother, Robin, captured my heart immediately because of how caring and supportive he was. I loved him.
His parents were interesting too because of how they handled and reacted to Max’s anorexia. I think Pollen could have been a bit more ambitious with making them have two distinct responses to portray how some parents handle it but nevertheless, it was fascinating to read about.

Anorexia is the deadliest mental illness in the world with a fatality rate at 20%. Yet, nobody seems to talk about it. And when they do, society has created a harmful stereotype and a lot of stigma surrounding it. If I told you to imagine an anorexic, what would you picture? A girl. White. Pretty. A frail frame and laughing slightly as she refuses a cupcake. No. Anorexia isn’t pretty. Anorexia is organ-damage. Brittle hair and nails. Lanugo. Shivering uncontrollably in a warm room. Seizures. Fragile bones. Heart palpitations. A foggy mind and broken brain. Anorexia isn’t pretty even if that’s what the media makes it out to be. That’s why I loved this book. It exposed the true nature of the disease. It doesn’t glamourise it for one second, it shows how horrendous it is, how painful and scary and horrific the disease is. This is why the novel is so crucial and needs to be read by everyone.

That being said, if you are vulnerable or suspect you’re not in the right head space to be reading something like this, I urge you not to. Although specific weights and BMIs are crossed out or left unmentioned, calories are. To an anorexic, food isn’t food. It’s numbers. This is evident throughout the novel as Max counts each crumb and thinks only of it as a digit. If this is something that would be damaging to you, please wait until you’re in the right mindset to read it.

Another thing I really appreciated about the book was the positive portrayal of the NHS and therapy. As I’m sure it is for many, these resources are crucial to one’s recovery. This was expressed throughout the novel as Max attends counselling sessions which aid him to get better. I think this is significant as it can inform the reader that it’s nothing to be embarrassed by and it’s important in helping you get better.

However, something about the prose didn’t mesh with me. I’ve never read anything by Pollen before so his writing style was completely new to me but I didn’t really click with it. To be honest, it was just bad. It was episodic and bland and really hindered my enjoyment. Obviously not the strongest aspect of the book. I found it very disengaging and resulted in me docking off a star from the overall rating.
Another thing that contributed to the lower rating was I just didn’t care about Max’s friends. Personally, I didn’t like Evie. I still found her annoying and weird and just didn’t care about Max’s boyish crush. Ram and Stu didn’t really peak my interest either, they just blended together and I didn’t care what was happening with them.

In conclusion, despite the quite boring writing style and few spelling and grammatical errors, this book was a pleasure to read. I loved learning about Max’s story and I think it’s destined to be an amazing and important middle~grade story. I loved it.

Love Lucy x
Profile Image for Karen Barber.
2,540 reviews60 followers
October 6, 2019
Max is a character you’ll feel for, but simply because his experiences sound exhausting.
When we first meet Max he’s struggling to deal with his illness. He gives it a name, Ana, and is acutely aware of the impact it has on his family. Max can’t pinpoint what started it, but he recognises that his constant calorie counting and obsessive attempts to control his food intake are destructive. He tries to go along with his counselling sessions, but that voice becomes stronger.
This was a sensitively told story, looking at some aspects of living with anorexia while also showing a teenage boy learning to develop friendships and live with some of the family issues that arise.
It’s hard to know how successful this is in conveying an experience which will, probably, be different for everyone but I did like the hopeful tone to it.
Profile Image for Anne.
2,097 reviews1,035 followers
February 21, 2019
As a woman in her fifties, I'm not the target market for this book. However, as a reader, and a person who appreciates fine writing, it's an absolute to pleasure to read this novel.

Men's and boy's mental health has been discussed a lot this year, and ZunTold believe that it's important that we keep talking and keeping it high on the radar.
The Year I Didn't Eat will be part of their 'Fiction As Therapy' arm, focussing on books with a therapeutic value.

I think it's safe to say that most people, when thinking about anorexia, will associate it with teenage girls. We see images of young girls who are so poorly with this obnoxious disease on a regular basis. There are articles about places online where they can go to get 'advice' about not eating, and these articles always seem to mention females. However, as with all mental illnesses, anorexia is not gender specific and Samuel Pollen has written a frank and poignant novel about a fourteen-year-old boy called Max who is living with anorexia.

It is absolutely clear that he draws from his own experiences, the insight into Max's thoughts and behaviours are incredible and I have no doubt that this must have been painful to write at times. However, it is also hugely important, and although it deals with the darkest of subjects, there is such humour within these pages too.

I liked Max, I liked the way that he wrote to 'Ana'. I loved his family, especially his Brother, but not his Aunt and Uncle! This could have been stereotypical and cliched. Max could have been a shy, bullied boy, but he wasn't. Max was an ordinary kid, from an ordinary household who was gripped by an illness that was destroying him.

An outstanding debut that is informative but also entertaining. The truth within fiction, packed with characters who are recognisable and perfectly created.
Profile Image for Gabriel Dylan.
Author 4 books34 followers
January 19, 2019
A gripping, poignant, and very well written read - sometimes funny, sometimes downright terrifying, always warm, I really enjoyed this debut. A very important book - as someone who works with young people I've learnt a lot from this, and I think this is a novel that every school library in the country should have a copy of.
84 reviews4 followers
April 25, 2019
Fascinating read that allows reader to have a glimpse into the mind of a boy with anorexia. Cautious about sharing this book with impressionable students though.
Profile Image for Lea.
99 reviews
June 3, 2019
In the beginning, I struggled with a lot of things: the writing, the way the story was told but there was this undeniable drive to it that really made me connect to Max and his story. It is an incredibly important story, one as real and raw as it can be and if I ever become a teacher, this would surely be on my list.
Profile Image for Anna.
Author 2 books8 followers
March 4, 2019
I've never had anorexia, but disordered eating and twisty thinking are familiar ground. I'm glad the author warns about the content, because I knew to watch myself a little closer and to make sure I ate normally over the two days I was reading this.

I can't remember the last time I tore through a book in two days! I did it because I *couldn't not.* I sank into Max's story like a warm bath. It is human, it is relatable, and it will stay with me for a long, long time. The characters are well-developed and real-feeling; the narrative is simple and beautiful.

The blurb on the front describes it as "strikingly honest and much-needed." It is those things, and might even be Important with a big I. If you are someone, or love someone, with an eating disorder - this book offers a too-rare window into what the experience can feel like. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Profile Image for Charlotte.
69 reviews
January 28, 2020
This is the first book I’ve read about someone who is living with an eating disorder. It is an incredibly honest story and the language used is not metaphorical nor does it try to poetically dress up with Max is going through. It is at times gut-wrenching. This being said, it is a very important, well written book and whilst I feel a little uneasy saying I enjoyed it, I am very glad I read it.

I think it’s important to add, however, that I found this book very difficult to read in parts as I recognised a lot of myself and my behaviours, both past and present, in Max’s story. At times it was very triggering. If you are currently living with an eating disorder or have in the past, I would exercise great caution before reading.
Profile Image for Sandy.
1,084 reviews13 followers
February 25, 2020
I loved listening to this young man's voice in this book. Most people associate anorexia with teenage girls and young adult women but boys and men get this too. I don't have anorexia or any type of eating disorder but I do hear some of the words that Max heard. Most of the time it's "You're not good enough". How many others hear that too? My heart goes out to these people who are dealing with issues of food. Of course, it isn't the food but the "out-of-control so I have to have control over something" issue. A very important book and very well written.
Profile Image for Shauna Holyoak.
Author 4 books37 followers
February 10, 2019
"Someone doesn't need to understand you to save your life. They just need to care." A touching and authentic story about a teenage boy with anorexia. I grew to love Max, his loving and supportive family and all those in his network who rallied around him as he struggled with his eating disorder. So many kids will benefit from this beautiful story.
292 reviews229 followers
August 31, 2019
*TRIGGER WARNING* As the title and summary suggests, this book is about a boy who has anorexia, thus it may be triggering for some. There is also a fair amount of calorie counting too.

It’s taken me a while to write this review after finishing the book because I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into words. This is because the book is such an incredible and powerful read that I want to make sure that I do the book justice. As someone who knew someone with anorexia when she was a teenager, I can guarantee that this book would have helped me to understand her a lot more. Furthermore, as someone with mental health issues, including ones that surround food – it is interesting to see how it can affect people in different ways. Samuel Pollen has done a fantastic job of portraying this mental health illness in a sensitive, strong and relatable way. It is very easy to feel empathy for others struggling while reading this book. It is the kind of book that we need more of and so I am incredibly glad that it now exists.

The Year I Didn’t Eat follows Max as he struggles with anorexia. At the start, he believes that he has a handle on the disease and is doing everything to keep “Ana” at bay – including writing her letters. What happens over the following year is an intense, heart-wrenching journey for Max and his family. He takes a lot of problems on to his shoulders and I wanted to help him throughout. I absolutely loved how this book eventually ended and loved how he has such strong friendships. It is clear that he is very loved and while he definitely isn’t out of danger, he definitely ends the book with a fantastic support network, which is wonderful to read.

Aside from feeling very empathetic towards Max and consistently wanting to do anything I could to help him, I also really liked his brother Robin. Robin is so understanding and really tries to make Max feel loved and supported which I truly loved seeing in this. I also enjoyed how Max got along with his friends, Ram, Stu and Evie. I also really liked “E”. I thought they were really understanding and supportive and I just think they were just what Max needed.

I don’t want to say too much more in case I spoil it so I am going to end here by saying that I very much enjoyed this book. It was heart-breaking in places but also full of hope and happiness in others. I connected with the characters a lot and feel like I understand Anorexia a little more because of this book. Samuel Pollen has created a very moving, powerful novel that I would highly recommend. I hope that it will become a truly valued book by teenagers who know people who are struggling or who feel that they themselves are struggling as well. So if you’re looking for an important but enjoyable read – definitely make sure you give this book a read.
1 review
June 5, 2019
Both heartwarming and heartbreaking at times, Samuel Pollen's debut novel has given me an insight into eating disorders that I never thought possible. Max's tale of self discovery, teenage angst and friendship is a delight to read.
Samuel writes with empathy and I immediately felt a strong connection to Max. I read this book in only a few sittings, driven by a desire to find out how Max's story ends, and was delighted by this novel which was entertaining, educational and ultimately emotionally rewarding.
March 24, 2023
My initial thoughts (literally JUST finished reading...) : it is sad that people have to go through this. But I feel that the author didn't write it in a way that you sympathize with the main character. He seemed like not the nicest person. Granted, he is going through a lot. Sometimes it felt like he thought this whole thing was a joke Overall, too many plot lines, very confusing, didn't
like. But to be fair, I haven't been through this so I can't really judge.
Profile Image for Michelle.
370 reviews12 followers
June 5, 2019
A fast paced read. I think it's the first book I read where it is a young man who has anorexia. Good perspective to show anyone can have the disease. I hope Samuel Pollen writing helps others know there is help out there and to ask for it.
May 24, 2023
To me personally if your going to write a book that is suppose to help people who are going through/ have gone through an ED (especially teenagers) writing the calorie numbers of some foods in the book really just isn’t the way to go? Like actually very damaging..
13 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2019
I was shookth. It was beautiful, moving and so freaking educational all at once!! If you are passionate about mental health, you should read this!
174 reviews
December 28, 2020
A good Young Adult book, not suitable for younger (primary aged) children at all. Lots going on for the main character, Max. He's anorexic and struggling with relationships with his parents, brother and school friends. Told through 1st person chapters and private letters. Enjoyable and quite a quick read.
Profile Image for Potsdam Public Library.
965 reviews3 followers
July 9, 2019
I understood so little about this that I was surprised it was about a boy -- I now understand so much more. Fantastic read.
Profile Image for Keti.
51 reviews3 followers
August 14, 2020
This was a really good read. Thank you to the author for writing this.
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