Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Title: Hunger (Horseman of the Apocalypse #1)
Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Harcourt Graphia
Pub. Date: 10.18.2010
Genre: Realistic YA
Keywords: Famine, Eating Disorders, Apocalypse
Pages: 180
Description (from GoodReads):
“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?

Wow. I’m impressed by Jackie Morse Kessler’s HUNGER. I expected a dark novel, but, while the subject matter is definitely intense, Kessler successfully wove humor and lighter elements into the story.

I was most taken by Kessler’s characterization of Death, Famine, War, and the other Horseman. Not only are Kessler’s depictions a welcome change from the stereotypical descriptions, I was surprised at how quickly my imagination adopted the unique characters… I actually find it comforting. Death dons “old-fashioned Converse high tops, untied” and has long blonde hair and a sexy scruff. I’d much rather imagine Death as a philosophical rockstar in Chucks than a scary figure cloaked in black.

HUNGER follows Lisabeth Lewis as she assumes the role of Famine and defies the laws of time and space to travel the world and witness the horrifying effects of hunger. Lisa struggles with an eating disorder, which is, of course, apparent to the reader and Lisa’s friends and family while she’s in complete denial. Despite the fantastical aspect of HUNGER, I found Kessler’s portrayal of a young girl struggling with anorexia to ring true. The Author’s Note mentions Kessler’s experience with her own eating disorder as well as a close friend’s, and her intimate knowledge of the subject matter is apparent in Lisabeth’s actions and thoughts.

I’ll definitely be reading the next three Horseman novels – Rage and Loss are the aptly named second and third installments – and I may even find myself looking into Kessler’s adult titles.

Grade: A

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