Countless by Karen Gregory – Heartbreaking insight to the destructive cycle of Anorexia

June 12, 2017 Book review 10 ★★★★★

Countless by Karen Gregory hits a myriad of emotions, and caused me countless tears.  The emotions jumped straight from the page to strike me where it hurt.  In the heart, in the gut.  All over.  Because it’s such a realistic portrait of an eating disorder, and I ached while reading it.

Countless by Karen Gregory – Heartbreaking insight to the destructive cycle of AnorexiaCountless by Karen Gregory
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc on May 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Emotions & Feelings, Realistic Fiction, YA Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: Library

'Is there anything that's concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?' Though she's more or less smiling at this last one.
I don't smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean. When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she's just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I've never heard her use before she says, 'Have you done a pregnancy test?'

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.

BOOKLOVE Tear Jerker Top Read Well Written Young Adult

First Line of Countless by Karen Gregory

“The cigarette between my fingers is thin, insubstantial.”

Thoughts on Countless by Karen Gregory

Hedda has countless problems. But she is a fan of numbers and lists, so I think she’d appreciate me counting the biggest issues facing her.

  • She is single, seventeen, and pregnant
  • 23 weeks pregnant, so too late for an abortion, if that was something she even wanted to consider
  • She has anorexia
  • Her parents have thrown her out
  • Her best friend Molly died 20 weeks ago, from an eating disorder
  • She lives alone in a teeny, damp, dingy flat in a tower block
  • Her name is Hedda!  Seriously, that’s awful!

This book gives you a heartbreaking insight to the destructive cycle of Anorexia.  Hedda has given control of her life to Nia (as she calls it).  When she discovers she is pregnant, she vows to eat, for her baby’s health.

“I count out the weeks in my head, then the days, then the meals.  Seventeen weeks, 119 days, 357 meals.  I can do it, if I take them one at a time.”


There are no easy solutions in this book.  It’s far too realistic for that.  No band-aid to cover the wound, and shield our eyes from the scabs underneath.  Instead we see it all raw and messy.  Her love for her baby doesn’t magically fix everything.  Hedda’s new neighbour is a kind guy, but he can’t cure her.  Her parents love, then threats, then abandonment don’t do the trick.  I loved Hedda, even if at times she frustrated me.  I wanted her to choose an easier road, but that wasn’t on her map.

Something small that broke my heart was that she loved books, but wouldn’t allow herself choose books she wanted at the library.  Instead she grabbed books at random from the returns shelf without even checking the titles.  Like I said, she does everything the hard way.

There is a spark of hope that runs through the book, and that helps balance the emotional intensity.  Hedda’s voice is just so lively, and honest that I spent the whole book willing her to succeed.  And I appreciated how hard her counsellors worked with her, as it showed the support was there.  But demonstrated just how difficult it is for them too to find the right words, at the right time.

The language in the book is perfect.  For such a heavy subject, it is told in a very relatable way.  With lists, and a vivid urban English setting, with flawed characters, a demon called Nia, and no hero swooping in.  Yes, it’s a tough read, with raw feels, but these is not a subject to be treated lightly.

The Bottom Line

A powerful, vivid, sad book that moved me so much.  I loved Hedda, and her battle to regain control is one I won’t forget in a hurry.


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: five-stars


Who should read Countless by Karen Gregory

I’d highly recommend this to you if you like YA contemporary books that deal with serious issues like eating disorders and teenage pregnancy.  Fans of authors such as Alice Oseman, Holly Bourne and Louise O’Neill should also enjoy.


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10 Responses to “Countless by Karen Gregory – Heartbreaking insight to the destructive cycle of Anorexia”

  1. Rita @ Paging Through Books

    Oh, sounds so melancholy! To be pregnant and anorexic means a decision of whether to put your body first… or your baby first. I know this sounds like an easy choice, but it’s not. I have a relative who “dabbled” in anorexia (there are sites online that tell you how to eat just enough to live, like a secret sorority). I won’t say more, but it’s definitely not an easy road to maneuver alone, and mostly these sufferers keep it a secret or shut out those who want to help them. Anyone who thinks you can just say, eat up! and it will magically work, is deluding themself.

    Anyhow, sounds powerful and honest, and I might want to read it also. Thanks for a great review!
    Rita @ Paging Through Books recently posted…Weekly Book News

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