Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Book: Hunger
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Published: 2010
Source: Review Copy downloaded from

Lisabeth Lewis isn't anorexic. If she were anorexic, she'd be thin. Instead, she has to constantly work to slim down, denying herself food and spending hours on the exercise bike. Her best friend and boyfriend are no help; they keep trying to sabotage her efforts.

Lisabeth's got bigger concerns than traitorous friends, though. She's just been given a pair of brass scales, a black horse, and the office of Famine. As in one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Lisabeth Lewis may not think she's anorexic, but she's about to learn the true power of hunger.

Well. This one was different. Problem novel? Kinda. Paranormal? Um, I guess. Fast-paced and thought-provoking? That's an unqualified yes.

What I liked best in this novel was that Lisa is not magically cured of her anorexia. What the experience teaches her is that she is out of balance and needs help to restore it. (Balance? Scales? Get it? Oh, I'm clever.)

The other thing about this novel is how being Famine changes Lia's outlook, not only as it relates to hunger, but also as it relates to other people. At the beginning of the novel, she's so focused on herself, her own flawed body and weak willpower, that she interprets everyone else's actions as focused on her, often maliciously. When she becomes Famine, and comes face-to-face with the terrible suffering in the world, she learns to see others as fully-rounded human beings with their own problems and concerns.

Side note: I'd sort of like to know why all the Famine-riddled places were clearly Third-World countries. No exact locations were given, but except for one scene of gluttony near the beginning, they all seemed to be vaguely South Asian, Middle Eastern, or African. Not to downplay the problems of those areas, which are rampant, but we have poverty and hunger aplenty in this country too.

GalleySmith's review speculated the whole Famine experience is Lisa's damaged psyche finally cracking under the strain. I think you could make a case for that, and it certainly makes the reading that much more interesting. Whether you're looking for a unique problem novel or a unique paranormal novel, Hunger fits the bill on both counts.

And for those intrigued by the Horsemen motif (War plays a plum role in this novel as Lia learns to stand up for herself), the next book, Rage, comes out in April of this year. Having read an advance copy, also from NetGalley, I can say that it's a worthy follow-up to Hunger.


Lindsay N. Currie said...

Wow, what an interesting and dark premise for a novel. I may have to dowload it - thanks for the review!

Pen and Ink said...

Sounds fascinating. I shall try and hunt up the first paragraph online for my first line paragraph post.
If you are looking for something to read, I just posted ten first line/paragraphs at Pen and Ink. The last five are from First time Authors nominated in the Mid Grade Chapter Book category of the Cybils. Please check it out and tell me which of these writers would you like to follow on their journey.