by Jackie Morse Kessler
Amazon.com Product Description:
"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 fight her own inner demons?
The idea behind this book had a lot of potential. Having the Horseman of the Apocalypse Famine as an anorexic teenager was an interesting idea; how would a character used to imposing starvation on herself utilize the powers of her office?
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t really get into the role of Famine at all. It’s never entirely clear what Lisa’s goal and purpose as Famine is. She has no mentor, so her new job is pretty much “learn as you go” and that wouldn’t be so bad, but the book is so short (less than 180 pages) that she doesn’t really have a chance to learn a lot. Her interactions with the other horsemen are minimal; she meets Pestilence once, War twice, and her encounters with Death (who resembles Kurt Cobain, it seems) can be counted on one hand. By the end of the book, Lisa has figured out how to use two powers. One, she can vaporize food into a fine ash. Two, Famine can “feed” people with her energy, creating a temporary fullness. The second power is like anti-Famine, and seemed a little weird.
The true focus of the book is eating disorders, and while it never gets preachy ‘Hunger’ is definitely graphic. Lisa struggles with a “Thin” voice in her head that always tells her she’s worthless if she isn’t exercising or eating, and she constantly calculates calories in her head. When her friends express concern about her condition, she pulls away from them. Her mother is critical of her daughter, but doesn’t pay attention to her; the father is weak-willed but kind. The one friend Lisa feels she can trust, Tammy, is bulimic, so while Lisa struggles not to eat her friend’s binge-and-purge behavior is described in great detail.
I think it’s a fine book for the teen audience ‘Hunger’ is clearly intended for. I’m disappointed by the underdeveloped fantasy scenes, but Lisa is a very realistic and sympathetic protagonist struggling with her inner demons.
3 out of 5 stars