I’ve had this book on my TBR for a long time, but some part of my brain pigeon-holed it as “another anorexia book,” so it took me a while to get down to reading it. Fortunately, it was well-written, focused and interesting, with a mythological twist that kept me reading. It’s definitely worth the read!
I like that this book is so short. There are many, many 400-page YA books that I just want to slice down to half the page-count because the protagonists spend so much time wandering around, wondering what to do and wondering who they are. Hunger gets right down to the story, who the characters are, and what they want and need.
Lisa, an anorexic who is about to commit suicide, is chosen as the new Famine, who is one the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Death is the one who gives her the job, and he seems to be the leader of the four. War and Pestilence come into the story, too, in their own ways. I really enjoyed how the Four Horsemen were modernized, so to speak, and it was really interesting how Lisa’s struggle with anorexia feeds into her role as Famine, and how her role of Famine influences the rest of her life choices. Death, War, and Pestilence were all really interesting characters in their own right, although we don’t get to completely know any of them; this is one of the drawbacks of the shortness of the book. However, there are three sequels for the three Horsemen aside from Famine. Death was the most intriguing and fleshed out (so to speak).
Lisa’s adventures as Famine, both in faraway countries and close to home were very interesting, but every time she got on her horse (Midnight, who is much nicer than you might expect from a Horseman’s steed), the tone of the book became almost surreal and very dream-like. I liked that. It made you question a little just how much of it was really happening, but it doesn’t really matter because it all reflects what is happening in her real life so well.
There is also a small cast of human characters in Lisa’s “real” life. Her boyfriend James and her ex-BFF Suzanne have realized Lisa has a problem and are trying to help her. Her new best friend, Tammy, is bulimic, and Lisa looks up to her but comes to realize that Tammy isn’t as confident or self-controlled as Lisa had though. Lisa’s parents are polar opposites but were a really great part of the cast. Her mom and dad are both flawed, realistic characters but still her parents.
There are a lot of detailed descriptions of anorexic or bulimic habits, which were really unpleasant to read but really helped me to understand the lengths people with those illnesses will go to feel some sort of control over themselves. Obviously, it’s really sad, and Hunger, through Lisa and Tammy, helps you understand and sympathize with those characters.
I gave Hunger four out of five stars.