Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Horsemen of the Apocalypse book #1
(see my review of Rage, the second book in the series)
Genre: YA fantasy/contemporary 
Pages: 177 (paperback)
Published: October 2010 by Harcourt Graphia
“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?

My Take: 

Lately I seem to have a weird fetish for reading and reviewing books about anorexia-- this is the second one in as many weeks.  (I even created a tag for it, bizarrely enough ;)  ANYWAY, this is the first book in Jackie Morse Kessler's four-book Horsemen of the Apocalypse series.  I loved Rage, the second book, so I had high expectations for the series debut.  The story and overall plot is very similar to Rage: troubled girl attempts to kill herself, but is saved by Death (ironic, much?) at the last moment and charged with being one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who deliver disease, starvation, war, and death unto the people of the world.  

The author went through a period during which she herself was anorexic, and her experience was definitely evident in the way she wrote Lisa's character and the twisted way Lisa sees the world.  She displays all the typical symptoms and characteristics of anorexia: pushing her friends and family away, thinking that she is disgustingly fat and inferior even though the 'obese' girl she sees in the mirror is waif-like and slowly starving.  Anorexia is a serious, horrible condition, absolutely, but I feel like I've already gone down that road as far as reviews.  (See my review of Wintergirls) 

...So let's talk about the Horsemen of the Apocalypse!  To say that Lisa being Famine is a unique spin on the contemporary anorexia tale is an understatement.  Because as somber and sad as the topic of anorexia is, Hunger is a heck of a fun book.  The Horsemen are all fantastic, though I wish we got to see more of the others besides Famine.  (Once again, this book is just too short!)  Death is our resident psychopomp horseman and my favorite character in the series by far.  When not occupied with spiriting the souls of the dead off to the next great adventure or recruiting new Horsemen in the form of troubled teenage girls who he seems to flirt with as frequently as he charges them with the ruin and destruction of mankind, he can be heard singing bits and pieces of Nirvana songs.  Lisa repeatedly tries to remember what dead rock star, exactly, he reminds her of and I just wanted to scream, 'Kurt Cobain!'  Whether he is or he isn't, Death is a character I look forward to seeing more of in future books.  Another little tidbit of awesomeness credited to Death is the way he inserts words like 'Yo' into old English.  Another great character is War, Death's handmaiden and a vicious and imposing woman who threatens Lisa from the start.  The showdown between Lisa and War near the end is positively fantastic.   

Hunger is the story of how Lisa overcomes her self-loathing and eating disorder, most ironically, through her new vocation as Famine.  The book manages to be both sad, as it reveals in excruciating and realistic detail how Lisa imposes starvation on herself and unique, exciting, even funny through the unique mythology and general epicness of the Horsemen.  A portion of all this book's proceeds goes to the National Eating Disorders Association, so check it out for the sake of that if nothing else.  

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 5/5 
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 3/5       
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 


Cheree said...

Thanks for a fantastic review. I really want to read this. It sounds so original.

Nic @ Irresistible Reads said...

Great review. This book has such an interesting and unique premise. And it is great that some of the proceeds are going to The National Eating Disorders Association.

abeautifulmadness said...

It looks like an interesting book. I'll have to check it out.

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