Hunger - Review

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Publication date: 18 October 2010
ISBN 10/13: 0547341245 / 9780547341248

Category: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Keywords: Eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia, recovery


“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 battle her own inner demons?

How I found out about this book:

Quickie: I read this just before Thanksgiving Day this year. I thought it apropos.

My review: At first I thought, not another depressing book about eating disorders. I have to say, the anorexic-as-Famine twist to the story makes the whole thing much more readable. I didn't want to be so thoroughly sucked in and sucked dry as I was while reading Wintergirls (also a great, but much more emotionally demanding novel about eating disorders/depression/family issues by Laurie Halse Anderson). In Hunger I could appreciate reading about the symptoms, obsessive thoughts and emotional explanations behind the diseases portrayed, while being able to maintain a safe observer's distance. In this sense I was able to enjoy a book of a type that is not usually enjoyable in any way. Heck, I even laughed a couple of times.

I loved the simple but striking characterization of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (including their steeds, in particular the mount that Lisabeth names Midnight)--Death as a sort of emo ex-rock-star, the wry and witty Pestilence, the big and blustery War. I liked Morse's admission, through her characterization of Lisabeth's parents and friends, that no one is perfect, and that people are not always as they seem. Lisabeth's transformation and struggle seemed well-plotted and the book, though part of a series, also felt very much like a complete standalone novel.

Who might read this book: Again, though I am not a doctor, I think reading about issues we may ourselves have can be therapeutic, so I would recommend the book to anyone who is dealing with an eating disorder (coupled with therapy and treatment of some sort, because in this sense man cannot live by book alone). I also think young people seeking to understand the psychology behind disorders such as anorexia nervosa can benefit from reading this book. There are some rather gross scenes (did I mention the bulimia? mmhmm) but I did not find their inclusion gratuitous. I rather enjoyed the humor despite the grim and serious topics.

If you can, please purchase a copy of Hunger. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book goes to the nonprofit National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Author photo from

Hunger is Jackie Morse Kessler's first novel. (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Book 1)

Find the author at, on Twitter @jackiemorsekess

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