Hunger, by Jackie Morse Kessler (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010)

Like far too many teenage girls, Lisabeth Lewis suffers from anorexia, constantly dealing with a gnawing hunger while battling her own self-image. Unlike her peers, Lisabeth has been given the Scales of Famine, and now rides across the Earth, using her power to foment chaos and pave the way for the Apocalypse. Yeah, that Apocalypse. War, Pestilence, and Death are all relying on her to do her bit. It beats worrying about college applications, right?

Lisa’s not really cut out for the death and chaos, though. She’d rather try to use her power productively. The problem there is that first she has to truly understand the nature of her role, the cost of what she’s doing, and where it fits into the grand scheme of things. Meanwhile, she’s still trying to cope with her everyday life, with a mother who’s never satisfied, with a would-be boyfriend who wouldn’t understand her need to be thin, with a best friend who’s totally in control of her image. Whatever choice Lisa makes will determine her fate, and whether she’ll have a short life, or a long one.

Though Hunger’s a fairly short book, weighing in under 200 pages, Kessler packs a lot of meaning and message into the thoughtful storyline. She cuts right to the heart of the matter, portraying anorexia and bulimia as the disturbing disorders that they are, getting into the mindset that drives people to self-destruction in the name of self-control and perceived perfection. It’s haunting, striking, even painful to watch in action, and it’s hard not to sympathize with, and root for, Lisabeth as she deals with her issues while trying to make important decisions. This isn’t an easy book, but it’s strong. Kessler tackles the subject matter with understanding and experience, and that prevents the underlying message from being too heavy-handed. I hope this book gets around to those who can benefit from it.

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