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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hunger Leaves Me Wanting More

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Seventeen-year-old Lisabeth Lewis doesn't have the healthiest relationship with food. And she's not much for horses. It's a little ironic then that she, of all people, should be the new Famine. As one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, it's Lisabeth's job to ride her black horse into places where famine and starvation run rampant. She's expected to use her newfound power to bring balance to the hungry. For a girl who wages war against her own appetite every single day, it's going to be a bumpy ride. But with Death threatening to finish what Lisabeth started by downing a fistful of pills, it's not as if she has a choice.
Lisabeth's no stranger to secrets - she's always starved herself in private, keeping her anorexia carefully hidden from prying eyes - but this one just might be her undoing. Her boyfriend's already concerned about her, her former best friend's written her off, and her new BFF gets angry when Lisabeth doesn't have time to help her binge and purge. Add in a mother who's either working or issuing backhand compliments ("You'd be really pretty, Lisabeth, if only you'd lose a few pounds."), and the idea of fleeing into the night on a swift stallion is growing on her. In fact, galloping off on her steed gives her a sense of freedom unlike anything she's ever felt.
Playing Famine has its perks, but it's not all fun and games. In order to have the energy she needs to fight hunger, Lisabeth must eat. Eating means stripping off her protective layers, exposing her raw self to her mother's constant needling, the probability that her boyfriend will dump her the second he realizes how screwed up she is, and the poisonous hiss of the Thin voice holed up in her head. It's not just personal sorrow that courses through Lisabeth's emaciated body - she's flooded with the hopeless desperation of children with empty stomachs, mothers who go hungry so their babies can eat, fathers turned to theft to provide for their families. Are her powers strong enough to offer relief? Can she save the starving masses? Heck, she can't even save herself ...
Hunger, the first in a new YA series by Jackie Morse Kessler, puts an original spin on the problem of eating disorders. No issue novel can really escape preachiness, and this one's no exception. However, the creative premise distracts the reader enough to make a point without seeming heavyhanded. Lisabeth is a likable heroine, one who's vulnerable, but funny and strong. It's easy to feel for her, grieve with her, and root for her success. Although I wanted more detail from this appropriately thin book, I still found it compelling and, ultimately, more affecting than I first realized. Kessler's personal battle with anorexia gives Lisabeth's story the power of authenticity, while the paranormal bent lends a dose of levity to an otherwise heavy issue. They work together to make Hunger interesting, original and moving. Although I didn't love, love, love it, it's left me hungry for more from this intriguing series.
A portion of the sales of Hunger will be donated to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). The book, which releases in October, is now available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of Purge by Sarah Darer Littman and a little of The Girl With the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron)
Grade: B-
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (one F-bomb + milder invectives), sexual content, and graphic depiction of binging/purging
To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Hunger from the generous folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thank you!


  1. What an interesting concept. A great mixture of realism and fantasy.

  2. Thanks for the review. I liked reading this one, it was a unique take on EDs


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