I’m jealous. I can’t help it. I wish I would have come up with the premise for Jackie Morse Kessler’s YA novel Hunger. It’s just so clever and brilliant and beautifully executed, it makes me a little green. But I’ll get over it, eventually.
In the meantime, I encourage everyone to give this one a go, even if you don’t think you can relate to the protagonist, a seventeen year old girl with a very serious eating disorder. Lisabeth Lewis’ anorexia is out of control, and she’s in complete denial about her condition, despite the worries of her boyfriend, her best friend, and her parents (especially her father). In a moment of total despair, she accepts a mission from the personification of Death, and from then forward, Lisa is transformed into Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The lessons she learns as she travels the world as Famine become deeply personal, driving her to face her own relationship with food, and with her visions of her body-image and self-worth.
This could be a nasty, brooding novel. It could be preachy as all get-out. But Jackie Morse Kessler effortlessly maintains a light tone, and Lisa’s voice is decidedly teenaged. Without alienating the reader with judgemental language, Kessler makes no bones about how horrible and life-threatening eating disorders are, and how they can affect both the person suffering from the condition, and her loved ones. The vivid contrast between Lisa’s anorexia and the instances of famine that she uncovers in the world as she travels on her black Horse is startling and thought-provoking.
And then there’s Death…he nearly steals the show. He’s a wise-cracking, smart-ass, rock star figure whose menacing, threatening reputation seems to be full of good-hearted cracks. How much more appealing could he be? Yep, I seriously should have thought of this one….
Kessler has decided to write the rest of the stories of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War’s story, Rage, comes out this spring from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. You know I’ll be reading it. (As an aside, I’m REALLY curious to see how she’ll eventually deal with Pestilence).
If you go to Kessler’s blog at jackiemorsekessler.com, you’ll find some very humourous “interviews” conducted by Death with various fictional characters from other YA books by other authors (he’s also “interviewed” Lisabeth there as well). Look under the Post Mortem tab.