Thursday, 28 April 2011

Book Review - Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: 18th October 2010
Genre: Young Adult

Summary (Goodreads):
"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 fight her own inner demons? 

 I’d seen this book do the rounds on the blogs for a while and just wasn’t sure about it, but that cover…it kept drawing me back to it. Almost like Death was in my head saying, ‘Go on. Read it. You’ll be surprised.’ I wasn’t just surprised; I was left raw from understanding and love for this book. Such a serious book told with an amazing black humour.

 Like pretty much every girl alive, I have body issues, but I’ve never been in a place where I start to starve myself. I love my food too much. I would rather do some sports or increase my activities than have a battle with food, calories, and knowing how much exercise it would require to burn off anything I eat. So I never understood anorexia or bulimia. Then I read this and I could hear the ‘Thin Voice’ that was in Lisa’s head all the time, like I was Lisa, and I understood how it can happen. That one offhand comment (off Lisa’s mother), the one that the comment giver doesn’t even remember saying, changes their outlook and there’s that Thin Voice.  I understood and Kessler couldn’t have written the Thin Voice any better to make me understand.

 The scenes are set vividly; everything could be seen in my mind so clearly. When Lisa visits places struck down with famine, I could see it all, and feel it all. I don’t think I read a page of this book without feeling hungry and, even though I’ve never had an eating disorder, I had this newfound respect for how easily food is obtained in my country, or even in my life really.

 Even though it was a series subject matter, there was humour to keep it just light enough that you wanted to read on and find out if Lisa would overcome her eating disorder. If it wasn’t for the whole Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse plot, I think the humour would have been hard to involve. The weirdness of Death turning up on your doorstep and announcing you as Famine is hard not laugh at, even when you do want to cry for this girl who want accept the help she keeps being offered off friends and family.

 This is not a book to be ignored. It should be one of those books that end up on those reading lists that newspapers and arty-farty book people like to create. Not only does it make you understand how anorexia can happen, but it highlights how lucky you are to be in a country where you’re next meal doesn’t bank on how well the crops grow. Please go read it now.

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