Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Graphia Imprint
Complimentary Review Copy
Overall Grade: 4 out of 5 stars (****)
Seventeen-year-old Lisabeth is fighting a series of demons the only way she knows how: by refusing to eat. Her cold, acerbic mother; distant father; and friends who disapprove of her and each other all trigger her inner Thin Voice, which derides food, confirms her fatness, and shames her into the control necessary to reject food. As she sinks deeper into anorexia, she summons Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who in turn assigns her a black steed and a scale and transforms her into Famine, another of the Four Horsemen. Kessler has written an unusual allegory about eating disorders, one that works on several levels. As Lisabeth gallops across the world, she witnesses examples of both gluttony and starvation. Using her newfound power, she combats famine, visits horror upon the privileged, and strives to bring balance to the world, all while ignoring the need for balance in her own life. Kessler offers a refreshingly new approach to the YA eating-disorder genre that reinforces the difficulty of conquering these diseases.
—Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com
Hunger has an ominous cover, something in the Paranormal genre that I wouldn’t necessarily pick up at first. It’s a slim book, just under two hundred pages, and had a concept that was intriguing enough for me to finish it in two sittings.
The character of Lisabeth is gripping and surprisingly realistic, except for the part that she is a Horseman of the Apocolypse—Famine, to be precise. Lisa is also anorexic, and I haven’t seen many books portray anorexia in such detail as “Hunger” and it has a lot to do with the author having been anorexic herself. The “Thin Voice” and the body dismorphic disorder Lisa experienced added to the complexity of her story.
An entertaining part that was a bit unexpected was Death, the Pale Rider and the one seemingly in “charge” of the Horseman. The author cleverly described him with dirty-blonde hair, a striped sweater, grungy jeans and Converse shoes…singing “Come As You Are.” It’s nice to think that Death would look like Kurt Cobain, even if it was only in a book and every time he entered the scene he seemed to steal it. I would love to see more of him in future books in this series.
Hunger was well worth the time invested, something rare and hidden in the Young Adult genre. The personal notes that Jackie Morse Kessler wrote in the back added to the esteem I had for her, as a friend of her’s—a victim of bulimia—died years ago and hoped that this book would help her heal. Because Ms. Kessler realized that it could have been her in her friend’s place if she hadn’t gotten help for her eating disorder.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a fantastic source. You can visit their website at www.nationaleatingdisorders.org or call them toll-free at 1-800-931-2237.