The Girls at 17 Swann Street – Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: February 5th, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Realistic Fiction, Mental Illness, Anorexia Nervosa, Sisterhood, Support System, Recovery


This is one of those rare books that you’re indifferent to when you start reading it but that becomes precious to you the more you read it. The narration style never changes, and neither does the writing, but the story progresses in a realistic manner and Anna undergoes an obvious and admirable character development.

It’s a quiet, yet achingly-realistic story told in the first person, with third person flashbacks that paint a picture of who Anna was before her anorexia nervosa took over every aspect of her life. The author’s style is so poetic that you slowly become emotionally invested in Anna’s prognosis and journey to recovery. In the beginning, I cared little for what was happening to her because I didn’t know Anna well and I couldn’t connect with her inability to eat.

But that’s the thing about mental illness. You can understand what it means and perhaps how it works, but you can only truly understand it if you have gone through something similar yourself. The only times I am unable to eat is when I am physically sick or heartbroken. I don’t ‘‘eat’’ my feelings, but I do eat, sometimes too much. So reading about Anna struggling with her meals wasn’t easy, but the author did an incredible job of SHOWING instead of simply telling.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the topic of anorexia nervosa now, because that was never the author’s intent. I believe she wanted us to fight alongside Anna, and that’s what I did. I cheered for her and my heart squeezed every time she couldn’t follow her recovery plan. Being open-minded means learning about things that you’re not normally drawn to or are maybe prejudiced against. That’s what I did, and I am ready to do it again.


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