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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Hunger
Series: Riders of the Apocalypse #1
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler

Release Date:
18th October 2010 (US) No Australian Date

My Rating:

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?

Travelling 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?

In A Nutshell: Hunger is a unique way of looking at teenage eating disorders, as Lisa is given the task of inflicting her unhealthy obsession on others. It is an up-close view into the sad world of a sufferer as Lisa battles with her self control and with those around her, until she ultimately has the realisation that she needs help.

My Review: When Lisa accidentally accepts the job as Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, her view on food slowly changes as she sees food, and eating disorders, from a new perspective. At only 175 pages, Hunger is a relatively quick read that can sometimes be graphic, but let’s face it, eating disorders are ugly.

Hunger looks at all the effects of having an eating disorder, both the physical and the emotional, as Lisa struggles with her 'thin voice', and the feelings of betrayal from her boyfriend, childhood friend and her father, as they try to help her realise she has a problem. We see the way in which Lisa’s eating disorder began and how her new friendship with Tammy has influenced her illness.
Through Lisa’s eyes we see how she reasons away her side effects with excuses, all the while the reader knows the real reason her face looks gaunt and her skin sallow, why her hair is falling out and why she is always cold. We witness her internal battle as she fights to keep ‘control’.

As she takes on the role as Famine, we see her initial feelings towards those who stuff their faces with food to her reaction at seeing those in third world countries completely devastated by famine and the other bringers of the apocalypse (pestilence, war and death). We see the point where Lisa realises what lack of food does to a person, to a town. We witness her joy at being able to help others and see the emotional strength inside her grow. We see Lisa fall down again when she thinks everything is ok but then her ‘thin voice’ creeps back into her psyche, and the turning point when she finally asks for help.

While Hunger deals with the increasingly common issue of eating disorders, Rage, it's sequel, looks at self-harm and the third book Loss, due for release in 2012, covers bullying. They are all heavy issues, but ones that a lot of people, adults and teenagers alike, refuse to talk about. And we all know that silence is not the way to handle such important issues.

Jackie Morse Kessler was one of the authors attacked in the Wall Street Journal Article, Darkness Too Visible, back in June. Rage was mentioned in the article saying that stories like these 'normalise' the issue and even promote it. I can tell you right now, what a load of &*$%. Reading Hunger, it does not glorify eating disorders, and while I haven't read Rage yet (I am off to buy it now), I would be willing to bet that it tackles self-harm in the same way. I would definitely recommend this book not only to teenagers, but also to those who do not understand what their friend, daughter, son, etc, is going through. Jackie Morse Kessler had an eating disorder. She writes from experience. Her efforts in helping fellow sufferers should be recognised and applauded, not insulted.

Other YA Books Looking at Eating Disorders
Just Listen
Beautiful Monster

1 comment:

  1. I read this about a year ago and for the most part I liked it; I applaud books that tackle such heavy issues and Kessler did so in a really unique way. I was also really happy to learn that some of the proceeds from buying the book go towards some kind of organization (I forget the name) that helps people with eating disorders.

    My only qualm with the book was in the world-building. I didn't really understand how the Four Horsemen functioned or even what Lisa's role as Famine was. If I read the other books in the series, maybe these things will become more clear though. :)


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