Thursday, October 28, 2010
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
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.
Labels: Books I've Learned From