Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Lisabeth is your average seventeen-year-old, living a perfectly normal life, except for the fact that she is severely anorexic and suffers from debilitating depression in her obsession with food and staying thin. When Death knocks on her door and tells her she’s been appointed to be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Famine), she is pretty sure she’s hallucinating. That is, until her steed – a black horse who lives outside her house and can be seen only by Lisabeth – summons her and she climbs upon his back to begin spreading hunger, as is her new role. While on her journeys, Lisabeth begins to understand the consequences of real hunger which gives her insight into her own disorder, and she starts to see how she’s destroying her body and her life by starving herself.
The concept behind Hunger is a very creative one: an anorexic girl has to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and go around the world seeing how devastating famine truly is. Unfortunately, I didn’t particularly enjoy the execution of said original and interesting concept. I think the book could have been excellent but honestly, it just fell flat for me.
I think it was just too strange for me to have such a fantastical concept mixed in with a realistic situation of an anorexic girl. It was a great idea, like I said, but it didn’t play out well on the page. I couldn’t get involved with the story because I was left with so many questions. Other readers might be able to just relax and enjoy the story without trying to understand the why behind everything, but in this case I was not able to do that. This might have stemmed from the fact that the book was very short – it just didn’t give me enough time to really understand and absorb what was going on.
The other issue I had with the novel is that I couldn’t latch onto Lisabeth as a character, couldn’t care about her at all. You would think it would be easy for me to care about a teenager clearly suffering from this disease – I mean she was very clearly in pain from her anorexia – but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was (again) because of the length of the book, or because of how Lisabeth was written, but whatever the reason I was not invested in her at all. Which, as I’m sure you can imagine, made it difficult for me to get into the story.
While I loved the concept behind Hunger, I was sad to see that it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped in its execution. This book is the first in a series and I’m not planning to continue on with the series because I just did not enjoy this one very much. While I can’t recommend Hunger, Kessler certainly had a clever idea in writing it so I definitely give her props for that.