Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review (T2T): Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 1

Tags: YA, magical realism, mythology, anorexia


In the throes of anorexia and contemplating suicide, Lisabeth Lewis is paid an unexpected visit by Death, who tells her she is to be the new Famine, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Lisa is incredulous: how can someone with such a hateful relationship with food be Famine? But as she travels the world on her steed and sees famine in action in heartwrenching scenes, Lisa begins to wage a war with her own inner demons as well.


HUNGER is a succinct but powerful tale with mythological undertones, yet a very relevant modern topic. Jackie Morse Kessler weaves together old-style storytelling with contemporary charm to create a memorable and 100% fascinating read.

HUNGER draws on mythology, but its fairy-tale-like feel comes from much more than just its premise: it’s the way Kessler writes the story. Lisa’s conflicting emotions never feel forced: Kessler’s choice of words, their rhythm and their placement, portray that for us, so that we are never told how Lisa or we are supposed to feel. The writing thus makes you feel like you’re simultaneously within Lisa’s mind and above it, viewing everything from a magical, observant distance, the sort of reader-story distance that forms the core of ageless fairy tales.

The human characters in HUNGER are relatively straightforward, as befits their role within the fairy-tale-like feel of the story. However, Death is such a great and unique character. He’s cheeky, and has a sort of too-cool-for-his-own-good vibe going on. It puts a different spin on something that could be otherwise very heavy in the mythology and issues.

Overall, HUNGER was an incredible read. At under 200 pages, it goes by quickly, but it packs a punch, expertly combining an old-school storytelling feel with the issue of eating disorders, so relevant to many today. I will definitely be looking out for Jackie Morse Kessler’s future books!

Similar Authors
Holly Black
Marcus Zusak

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - Uniquely, enticingly unisex, different, and flavorful.

Graphia / Oct. 18, 2010 / Paperback / 180pp. / $8.99

ARC picked up at BEA.

This review is part of a blog tour brought to you by Traveling to Teens. Stay close for an interview with Jackie!


  1. Distance - that's a good way to put it. Death really does stand out, doesn't he?

  2. Thanks for such a great review Steph. I think I need to read this - going to go and see if I can order a copy from somewhere!

  3. Wow, great review. That looks like an incredible book. I'm going to have to check it out.

  4. I've recently read this one as well and found it to be such an interesting way to write about a very serious subject. I though Kessler handled the issue of eating dissorders tastefully and with great honesty. Not to mention she's crafted it in a way that younger readers will relate to, learn from and not be scared of or preached at.


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