Thou art Famine

Hunger by Jackie Morse KesslerHunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Riders of the Apocalypse # 1
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Number of pages: 177
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

“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?

I cannot imagine myself having an eating disorder. I love food too much, and I can’t imagine not eating. Of course, when I lost all the extra weight, I was careful to follow my nutritionist’s advice and keep myself well-fed to keep my metabolism up. I guess I’m blessed enough not to be too conscious of how fat/thin I look, and that I had good friends and people around me who always kept me in check.

But that doesn’t mean that I have never had encounters with any eating disorder. I had some friends back in college who had eating disorders. One had bulimia and we had to do intervention for her to help her out, while the other had an eating disorder that was neither bullimia or anorexia (I think it’s called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), where she always thinks she’s fat even if she wasn’t (if she was fat, then I’m an elephant) and she would swing from binging and purging to eating normally and exercising like crazy. Thankfully, these friends are better now, so it wasn’t as extreme as the one I read in Hunger.

Now, Hunger is a pretty unique book. I’ve read some contemporary YA with eating disorders involved, but never in the context of an urban fantasy novel. For one thing, I only know of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from watching Charmed (Season 2 Episode 21), and they give me a kind of creepy impression being harbingers of the apocalypse. I also didn’t know these four horsemen actually had a Christian origin as they were from Revelations! *facepalm* I had no idea what to expect about this novel, except maybe get a bit freaked out at the references to the apocalypse.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. It’s not an apocalyptic novel, despite the presence of the four horsemen — it was more of a novel about an girl suffering through an eating disorder. Lisa is the type of person who’s already very thin and yet would still look at websites like www.weightlosspillsthatwork.org.  I was very annoyed at Lisa for most of the novel because she is sick, but she won’t admit it. I wanted to yell and scream at her for thinking that she was fat — there weren’t many descriptions of her in the book, but I knew for a fact that she wasn’t fat. I know that she was doing more harm to her body than good by not eating and exercising like crazy. I was both frustrated and sorry for Lisa because she won’t listen to her friends and yet she really, really needs help.

Who knew being Famine could change that? Lisa being Famine was the key for her to realize that while she was starving herself because she felt fat, there are people all over the world who would die to have the food she has available for her. It was kind of hard for me to understand how famine could be a good thing, how it could help, but the author managed to execute it well in a way that made sense. I liked how Lisa’s story turned out — it wasn’t a story of destruction really, even with all the apocalypse, but a story of redemption for Lisa.

I’d also like to say that I’m relieved that there’s no paranormal romance involved in this book! For a moment there I thought Lisa would fall for another horseman, but I’m glad she didn’t. Not only would that be creepy, but that would totally destroy how the story was set up.

There were some stuff I found myself nitpicking on that didn’t make me love this novel. There were times when the point of view shifts, like the sudden use of “our” and “we”, and it was kind of jarring to see shifts like that while reading. Example:

She opened her mouth to say she most certainly did not, and never mind that he looked familiar because she’d never seen him before, not really, when suddenly it clicked. Humans have a race memory, or if you wanted to get Jungian, a collective unconscious — the feelings and experiences that we as a species have learned throughout the ages. In our souls, we recognize the angels and demons that walk among us, as well as the Old Ones who fall in between those categories.

I’m not sure if it’s a writing technique, but to me, it felt a bit awkward, like it could have been written better. Also, the switching from Lisa to Lisabeth throughout the story was kind of confusing, up until I realized that whenever Lisabeth was used, it is from the POV of Famine or the horse. This is very minor, but I also felt like Lisa’s parents could have been named better — Simon and Sandy felt too much like brother and sister to me. ^^

But that’s just me nitpicking, as I said. Hunger is still a pretty good book, one that pleasantly surprised me. It’s a pretty quick read, and there’s also a story from the author at the end that made me appreciate the story even more. I’m looking forward to Rage, the second book in this series, this time about self-mutilation and War.

Hunger will be out on October 2010 from Harcourt Graphia. A portion of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the National Eating Disorders Association. Much thanks to NetGalley for the advanced reading copy ebook!

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