Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Hunger by Jackie Kessler

Hunger (The Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Rider's Quartet, #1)
by Jackie Morse Kessler

Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Reading Grade: Young Adult
Publishing Type: traditional
Publication Date: October 2010
Source: local library
Rated: Teen (14+)

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? 

My Review

This book turned out to be very different from what I had expected. I read half of it feeling like it wasn't satisfying, or was missing something, but as I continued, I realized why I thought that at first. It wasn't because there was anything wrong with it. It was because I was expecting an entertaining fantastical escape, but this book becomes almost literary, actually, more serious. Once I realized that, my entire attitude about the book changed. Suddenly, this book took on a whole new meaning.

The protagonist, Lisabeth Lewis, is an anorexic seventeen-year-old who meets Death, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and he tells her that she is the new Famine, one of the four Horsemen. She eventually gets around to her duties and learns what she can do with her new powers, and in the process, begins to open her eyes to understanding her own psychosis.

But, don't for one second think this book is just some after-school special on how anorexia is bad. That's not what this is about, at least not solely. Lisabeth travels to parts of the world where she sees how famine shows up in the lives of real people who have no choice but to starve, and realizes that she has the power to help them. In helping them, she overcomes her real problem: her own self-centeredness.

Lisabeth is self-centered in the negative way, the way in which a person thinks they are the worst thing ever, rather than the best thing ever. This story is about how that, too, is just as bad a neurosis to have as the other extreme version. Seeing that other people suffer from starvation teaches her to look outside of herself and quit being so blind to others.

It turns out that overcoming this problem helps Lisabeth to eventually get the real kind of help she needs. But, the truth is, everyone can relate to being too self-centered. It's an issue that speaks to all of humankind, and not just to modern women. That's why this book might not be what you expect when you read it. But, you'll find it is a wonderful work of literature that magically speaks volumes of the human condition in only a scant 174 pages.

Read this one with your critical-reading cap on. If you like to analyze speculative literature, especially the kind that deals with important contemporary issues, you'll get a feast out of Hunger by Jackie Kessler.

My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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