Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler-Review

What would happen if an anorexic teenager decided to end it all, only to be offered an alternative by Death upon arrival?  Would you pick being Famine, one of four horseman of the Apocalypse instead of an irreversible death?  Lisabeth Lewis picks Famine, although it takes her a few days to realize she did.  Now how is she going to live with that decision?

Hunger plunked through my mail slot, courtesy of the infinitely kind folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, last week while I was laid up with a dreadful cold.  It was a short commitment, 180 pages, and had an intriguing premise, so on Friday night I picked it up and by Saturday night I had whipped through it.

It's funny, every couple of days I feel like some new celebrity is coming forward about struggling with an eating disorder, and yet this is the first YA book I've come across that deals with it.  As TV, the Internet, and Media in general go postal through IPhones, IPads, Blackberries as well as all the old school devices (anyone watch a Television anymore? anyone....anyone?) it seems obvious to me people are more and more aware.  They're more aware of their looks, their hair, their weight, their hording, their singing, their dancing, their child rearing.  And I can't help but wonder what it's doing to children and teenagers, the forerunners of almost every new gadget and technological gizmo.  I certainly wouldn't be surprised if statistics were to show more of them then ever before feel fat, ugly, untalented or just generally lacking in the pizazz everyone in the Media have. 

So it was refreshing to see a paranormal book, so appealing looking and sounding, touching on the subject.  Instead of marginalizing her problem, becoming Famine helps to put it into perspective, and it's interesting to watch Lisabeth grow into her new role and basically rediscover herself.  I also really like that this book didn't pretend to offer all the answers to her problem, instead presenting a really believable version of Lisa struggling with regaining a healthy perspective.

Of course mixed into all this was her interactions with the other three horsemen, War, Pestilence, and Death.  And Death really amused me, especially when War was gripping about how weird he could be.  The idea that Death could look like Kurt Cobain, be philosophical and fairly creepy all at the same time worked really well for me.  I loved Death.

Part of all the proceeds go to the National Eating Disorders Association, and there's a lovely bit at the end where the author talks about her own brief sojourn in the realm of eating disorders.  This was a great mix of being a thoughtful look at a serious problem, and an intriguing paranormal teen story, and I can't be happier that another book along these lines comes out in April- Rage (about War! who else).  I can only hope it'll become a series, one book for each of the Horseman.

Hunger by, Jackie Morse Kessler
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 18th 2010


  1. Great review. Can't wait to get this book.

  2. So glad to read you enjoyed this. I'm anxiously waiting for it to come in at my local bookstore. I'm interested in this because of the eating disorder as well though it isn't a new concept in YA. If you're interested in it, pick up Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson which is also a great representation of eating disorders and profoundly terrifying. I've heard a lot of people say they loved Death so I'm interested to find out about it. Thanks for the review!

  3. Death really intrigues me in this sotry and even more in Rage
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  4. mmm, haven't read Rage yet, but boy am I looking forward to it!