Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Hunger
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Series: Horsemen of the Apocalypse #1
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Release Date: October 18, 2010
Pages: 180 (Paperback)
Obtained From: NetGalley

"Though 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?

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?


The first thought that I had after finishing Hunger was that it was too short, and I don't say that because it was only 180 pages long. I say that because the story ended just as it was getting started. From the moment that Lisabeth is recruited as Famine, the reader is taken on a crazy (and ironic) journey of self-realization and discovery. But just as she starts to explore her powers as Famine, the ending shows up and concludes the story rather abruptly. I wanted to see more, especially since the first half of the book was dedicated to exploring the pains of her eating disorder rather than actual character development. Even though I understand that this was necessary in order to show where the story was heading, I would have liked to see more Apocalypse action. I can't help it; I like explosions and swords and death and whatnot. So sue me.

On that note, yes, even though Hunger spends more time dealing with Lisabeth's eating disorder than her role as a Horsemen, Kessler refuses to sugar coat it. Instead, she handles it firmly, throwing in meticulously detailed scenes that describe the horrors of eating disorders. One scene in particular comes to mind where Lisabeth's best friend binges on junk food and then heads to the bathroom to throw it up in the reverse order that she ate it in. The feeling and appearance of the food was described, making this scene (and others like it) difficult and painful to read. I've never had an eating disorder, nor have I ever had a friend who had one (to the best of my knowledge), but I can only imagine that it is as painful (if not moreso) than what Lisabeth was going through. Watching Lisabeth walk a thin line between sickness and knowing what she was doing was wrong was nerve wracking, and even though I sometimes had trouble connecting to her as a character I wanted her to get better.

Though the direction of the story was obvious, I enjoyed watching it unfold. But like I said before, I just wish there was more. The concept and use of the Horsemen to tackle such a sensitive subject was very creative, and provided a unique outlet to discuss eating disorders. Kessler leaves the reader with a important message: for those of you that find yourself in the same situation as Lisabeth--or to those who have friends who are sick--there is hope. Seek help. It's not okay to pretend like it's okay, and if you find the courage to speak up, people will listen. I suspect that the second book in the series (Rage) will follow a similar pattern to Hunger, even though it deals with cutting and self-mutilation instead of eating disorders. None-the-less, I look forward to seeing Kessler expand on the mythology of her Horsemen.



Straylights said...

OH I liked this one but I must agree, it felt like right when it was starting to get good it just... ended. I felt like some one popped my balloon right when I was about to rub it on my head and make my hair stand up. I love doing that too....booo

Emi said...

@Straylights: Totally booo. :( I hope the next book is longer. I'd rather not feel like the balloon over our heads was popped.

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

Oh, I was totally going to have this as my first Netgalley read way back when. But that plan fell through. I have to admit that the idea behind this series is so unique and interesting. That's what initially intrigued me. But a lot of people seem to either love or hate this book. o_o Kinda makes me unsure if I want to read it. But since you have, and liked it (yknow, besides the book equivalent of blue balls), I think I'll give it a spin.

Admittedly, I love books that explore disorders and the less-than-fine lifestyles people live. I know a lot of people who have struggled through eating disorders (all of whom I met at the looney bin, but that's a different story xD). It seems, from what you've said, that Kessler doesn't hold back and portrays all of the gruesome details of bulimia. Maybe it's just me being dark and emo, but I like reading dark and depressing things like that. With no sugar coating. I'm hardcore. Okay not really. Anyway I'll stop rambling. 8)

Small Review said...

I completely agree with you. I thought the author did a great job describing the eating disorder part, but I really wanted the fantasy aspects to be fleshed out more. I'm with you, I wanted explosions and swords and death, etc. The next book is larger, so maybe the fantasy parts will be expanded more there.

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