Be super, super excited because … I have another sneak peek book review for you today! The wonderful Stephanie Squicciarini, fearless leader of the Teen Book Festival, was able to get me an ARC copy of Jackie Morse Kessler’s YA debut, the novel “Hunger.”
The jacket flap description of “Hunger” reads: 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 assumed, from the description, that “Hunger” would be some sort of post-apocalyptic novel, in a way akin to “The Hunger Games” series. But I was wrong. I didn’t actually realize that Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a biblical reference. (Thank you, Wikipedia, for clearing that up for me.) According to Wikipedia: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible. The chapter tells of a scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. Jesus Christ opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons forth the four beasts that ride on white, red, black, and pale-green horses symbolizing conquest (or pestilence), war, famine, and death, respectively. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.
So, as you may have already guessed, “Hunger” was unlike anything I have ever read. And that was a good thing. Lisabeth Lewis is seventeen years old, anorexic, and in denial about her condition. She’s no longer speaking to her best friend, she’s fighting with her boyfriend, and after attempting suicide, she is visited by Death who appoints her Famine. While that may sound like hardcore fantasy, “Hunger” is, in actuality, more of a reflection on the devastating effects of an eating disorder. I would rank “Hunger” as being of the same caliber as Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Wintergirls,” which is the best account of anorexia that I have ever read.
“Hunger” is due out on October 18. It’s a relatively short book (180 pages), and it moves fast. I devoured it in only a few hours. It’s the sort of book that you’ll wish was longer, but only because it’s one that you’re sad to part with.