Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”
Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to battle her own inner demons?

The whole idea of Famine mixed with anorexia is fabulous. The concept of someone starving herself on purpose being forced to see people starving because they have no choice really pulled me into this story, and I couldn’t wait to see how the author was going to tackle it.

I thought Kessler did a fantastic job with the eating disorder aspect of things. It felt real, especially with the gory details we get in certain scenes. Lisa’s ‘Thin Voice’ strikes me as something a real anorexic would hear in her own head, and drive her to do things she really shouldn’t. Such as not eat, or exercise herself into the ground. I also found Tammy’s scene in the bathroom to be incredibly powerful. Yeah, it was gory and disgusting, but it also shows exactly what bulimia is. There’s nothing glamorous about it.

Kessler also did a great job showing Lisa’s motivations for starving herself, given her home life. Her interactions with her friends was also realistic and believable. Though they try to help her, Lisa doesn’t see that she has a problem because she can’t see herself as anything but fat. And, if she were truly anorexic, she says, “I’d be thin.” Very powerful.

Unfortunately, the fantasy aspect wasn’t as compelling. I never got a complete sense of what Lisa’s job as Famine was supposed to be. She gets no instruction, and ends up causing both misery and relief. Her symbol of office is the scales, but she never really uses them. The bible states how the scales will be used during the apocalypse, but what about before? I would have liked to know a lot more about that.

The conclusion had me torn. On the eating disorder side of things, it was incredibly realistic and well-done. On the Famine side of things, I was confused. I didn’t quite understand why she made the choice she made, especially after discovering what she could do in her role as Famine. Plus, this seems to be a complication for the next book in the series, which is about War.

If you’re looking for a realistic view on eating disorders and the havoc they can wreak, then this is your book. But if you’re looking for a solid marriage of Famine and anorexia, well, this doesn’t quite do it.


Catherine Stine said...

Hmmm, it's certainly an interesting premise though. If you want to read a chilling portrait of anorexia, check out Hornbacher's Wasted. It'll make you want to run out and eat a vitamin-rich meal.

Tabitha said...

It is an amazing premise. I'll still read the next book just to see how Kessler handles the character of War.

And I'll definitely check out Wasted. Thanks for the rec!

cleemckenzie said...

You're right about the premise being amazing. I'm just wondering why the book had to be couched in the fantastic at all. It seems like a perfect realistic story.

LM Preston said...

The subject matter in this book is a needed one. However, I must admit that as a kid, I learned to purge/starve myself from reading books about characters that did. Unfortuntaly, with writing YA on difficult topics the author never knows how the reader will recieve it.

C.R. Evers said...

hmmmm . . . .sounds interesting.

BTW, I love the new look of your blog. I don't know how "new" it is, since I've been bad at making blog rounds lately, but I like your blog layout, none-the-less.

Tabitha said...

Lee - not sure. I do think that the combination is wonderfully balanced and brings a certain insight into anorexia. I just wish it had blended a bit better.

LM - yes, it is a double-edged sword. I, too, learned certain things from books that never would have occurred to me otherwise. I guess that's part of the dangers of being an avid reader. :) But I was probably going to hear about those things at some point anyway. :)

Christy - thanks! I changed the look not too long ago. The other template was always needing maintenence, and this is much easier. Eventually, I'd like to do something custom, but I want to sell my book first. :)