As Lisa discovers her power as Famine, she also discovers how to control the “thin voice” in her head. Instead of being controlled by the negative power of hunger and food, she learns that food has the power to heal. With her new knowledge, Lisa begins to heal the victims of famine and her self at the same time.
This book was very unique. The idea of an anorexic girl becoming Famine—and not being crazy—was a hard one to take in. I didn’t fully appreciate the story until I finished the book and read the author’s note. Knowing that the author had a “Lisa” in her own life really put the story in to perspective for me. I couldn’t help but remember people I knew growing up that battled with eating disorders. With that, I began to appreciate the symbolism throughout the story more than I previously had. I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, but I would imagine Lisa’s thoughts would be accurate. You could feel her struggle with the “thin voice” throughout the story. I could almost feel her pain every time she saw food.
I thought the characters weren’t as developed as they should be. I never fully appreciated the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War came across as mean and nasty, but that was it. I never got the feeling of an overly threatening persona. Pestilence was disgusting. The description of his cold sores and snotty nose made my stomach flip. Other than that, however, there wasn’t any character development. My favorite of the four Horsemen was Death. A Kurt Cobain styled messenger of death was an interesting touch. I picked up on the Nirvana songs instantly—even if I wasn’t a fan of Nirvana when I was younger. I would have loved to see more character development overall. Since this is the first book in a series, maybe the characters will have a chance to evolve with each addition in the series.
I think I would pair this book with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. Together, they would be an interesting look into eating disorders. I had a rating for half stars, I would probably give this a 3 ½. But, since the image of the struggle with food seemed so real and horrifying for Lisa, I will give it a 4.
The best way I can describe this book is by saying that this was a very difficult and tough read. I enjoyed the spin Jackie Morse Kessler used in Hunger, giving Lisa the job responsibilities of Famine, but underneath this, no reader will be able to forget that there is a very serious issue at stake. Kessler allowed readers to be passengers along for the ride during Lisa's struggle with her eating disorder and the consequences that have been the result of her actions.
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this novel, but I enjoyed reading it (or at least as much as one can) with a topic as heartbreaking as this one. I found myself feeling extremely naive and ignorant when presented with some of the information presented to me in Hunger. I know this is a work of fiction, but Kessler does say in her acknowledgments at the end of the book that although this is a work of fiction, she makes it clear that this situation and many like it are not make believe. Many people out there suffer from these diseases and so many need help and assistance from people they can trust. I will say that as informative as this was for me, there was one point about half-way through that after reading I was not sure I'd be able to make it to the end. It was an incredibly vivid and emotional scene and it was devastating to witness/read. So I took a break but then decided that I couldn't let myself put this book aside forever, so I kept reading.
I think Kessler has a wonderful writing technique and is doing a great and very brave thing by not only writing this novel and putting it out there, but for trying to reach people through Hunger, in order to help educate everyone with this story. There is help out there for those individuals with eating disorders and hopefully they'll be able to see there is light at the end of the tunnel, and help for those who want and need it. For people like me, I was humbled after reading this book because of my ignorance on these issues and problems, and I'm thankful to have had the chance to read Kessler's work. I look forward to reading more of her work and can only hope that her voice reaches far and wide with Hunger.