by Jackie Kessler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hunger / 978-0-547-34124-8
When Lisabeth Lewis can't go on with life anymore - can't go on with her domineering mother; her kind, but controlling father; and most of all the Thin voice that whispers to her constantly about the ever present need to be utterly, totally in control of every morsel she consumes - she's more than a little bit surprised when her suicide attempt brings her a literal visit from Death, as well as a new commission: "Thou art the Black Rider."
It would seem that the four horsemen of the apocalypse - Pestilence, War, Hunger, and Death - don't just sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for the apocalypse to start. No, they're busy all the time, moving back and forth over the earth, holding responsibility over their respective dominions and doing the best they can (or in some cases, not) to wield their powers as responsibly as possible. There's been a recent opening for the spot of Hunger, and Lisabeth fits the bill perfectly, given that she's lived with constant self-induced hunger for as long as she can remember.
"Hunger" is that rare novel that manages to seamlessly interweave a serious moral and an intriguing and fascinating fantasy story - although "Hunger" is definitely a painfully real look at the dangers of anorexia and bulimia, the novel never comes off as trite or preachy. Instead, Lisa's daily struggle with the Thin voice (the internal voice that tells her that she's ugly, fat, and unworthy) is a superb choice at deep and meaningful character development - and as she struggles with the new powers she's been granted, her fantastical struggles to act responsibly and help others closely parallel her real world struggles to eat responsibly and not hurt herself and the ones she loves.
I can't recall the last time I've been so quickly and utterly hooked by a novel; author Kessler weaves the most interesting narrative, and she knows how to hook and hold an audience. Never preachy, she doesn't shy away from stark portrayals of pain and suffering, and she has enough experience with the subject matter to understand that radical changes require outside help and cannot always be accomplished by an individual simply deciding to face her demons and instantly "get better". Although this novel deals with some very mature and serious themes of pain, I cannot imagine anyone - young or old - not liking this captivating tale of Lisa and her journey.
I'm not usually one to clamor for sequels for sequel's sake, but I would love to see Kessler continue this concept to the other three riders - she seems to have such an instinctive grasp of the demons that people wrestle with daily, that it would be a shame to not see more from this talented author.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through NetGalley.
~ Ana Mardoll
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