Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: Traveling ARC Tours
From the cover:
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 inner demons?
A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.
(This is the first book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series.)
This one actually rather surprised me.
Lisabeth, the main character and narrator of Hunger, has a serious problem with food: she’s anorexic and in denial. Well, sort of. She recognizes that she has a problem with food, but only to herself. Lisa has just lost her best friend, Suzanne, because Suzanne accused her of being anorexic and Lisa thought it was an insult and that Suzanne was just jealous. The problem is, her boyfriend is also starting to realize just how bad Lisa’s problem with food is, and the only person that Lisa has left to turn to is her new best friend Tammy, who also has a problem with food – bulimia. In addition to all of this, Lisa’s home life is rather disfunctional, since her mother is never around and basically treats both her daughter and her husband as disappointments.
As you can tell, that’s not exactly a recipe for self-acknowledgement of Lisabeth’s illness, never mind recovery.
Hunger opens as Lisabeth tries to understand the package that she has just been given – a set of scales – by a strange delivery man who interrupted her suicide attempt using her mother’s Lexapro. It takes her a while to understand that the delivery man was Death and the scales are the symbol of her office in her new persona, Famine. Soon, she meets the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War and Pestilence – and really starts to understand what her new position entails. All of this happens while Lisa is struggling with the Thin Voice inside her, the one telling her how many calories are in each morsel of food she contemplates, how long it will take to burn those calories off … and that she’s fat, no matter how much weight she loses.
This was definitely a unique and interesting take on the “issue” novel, and particularly on the idea of anorexia. I loved that there really wasn’t that much preaching in this novel; even though Lisa’s friends and family comment on her eating habits and even tell her that she has a problem, she doesn’t just suddenly “get it” and move on. Kessler has created a much more realistic character than that in Lisabeth, even while writing within a fantasy world where the Four Horsemen exist and are a real part of human reality.
If you’re interested in eating disorders or even just in the mythology of the Horsemen, I definitely recommend this one. It’s not quite what you’d be expecting from a story about eating disorders … in a good way.