Hunger by Jackie Kessler
2010; 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? (courtesy of Goodreads)
"Issue" books are very common in the young adult world. Death, drugs, depression, eating disorders...you name it. It gives the author an easy plot arc - start down in the depths and build yourself up to recovery in some fashion.
Hunger is an "issue" book in the sense that the main character Lisa has a severe case of anorexia. It does follow the familiar plot arc, but does so in a unique manner - by incorporating fantasy. Lisa is chosen to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Appropriately, she is chosen to be Hunger.
Lisa's anorexia is the dominant theme of this book. Her life revolves around it. She dropped friends who questioned her health and attached herself to bulimic Tammy, who eggs her on. While the reader hates manipulative Tammy, I definitely see why Lisa is friends with her - it's comforting to have someone who understands the way you think and the way you eat. Lisa's inner voice is her constant nemesis. Always telling her that she's not thin enough. To everyone else she looks gaunt, but Lisa's voice points out all her flaws, real and imaginary. The author portrayed the inner voice well, showing just what kept Lisa from eating or changing. I thought it was an accurate reflection of the anorexic frame of mind.
The fantasy aspect - the Horsemen - is quite strange. Lisa wonders around on her horse making people starve to death. It was interesting, although a bit of a stretch. Some fantasies are so well-described that I almost believe it's true no matter how magical it is. Although Hunger is well-written, I never came close to believing it.
I loved Death. He seems like a sensitive thinker who's taken on the image of Kurt Cobain. While I don't want to get close to Death, Death as a person seems pretty cool. Pestilence was creepy, but good for Lisa. He helped her understand that her role as Hunger can either be a force for evil or a force for good. War is evil. Out for herself and full of hatred.
It was interesting how having the power to determine whether people starved or thrived helped Lisa come to terms with her anorexia. While the plot itself is a bit odd, I really liked the path Lisa took to discovering the value of her body and her health. She discovered the meaning of friends and family.
Definitely an interesting novel.
Rating: 3.5 / 5