Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Graphia Books
Publication Date: October 18th 2010
Genres: fantasy, fiction, health issues, magic, mythology
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Jackie Morse Kessler’s Riders of the Apocalypse series follows teens who are transformed into the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In Hunger, 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? A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.
Before reading this review or these books, if you have triggers about eating-disorders, suicide, self-harm or bullying, please note that these books and as such this review, will contain mentionings of those subjects.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Famine, War, Pestilience & Death. Some of the most feared figures in religion (the legend is containted in the Book of Revlations in the New Testament of the Bible although they are Famine, War, Conquest & Death in that version) and mythology as it is said they will bring forth a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgement. But are they really all that bad? Not in this series.
Jackie Morse Kessler brings the stories of each individual Horsemen a new life in her Riders of the Apocalypse novels. For instance, two of the riders are female, and all of them can be and are replaced by someone else. She also deals with various issues facing teenagers and their families carefully but without sugar-coating them either.
In Hunger, we meet Lisa – an unhappy teenager who is in denial about her eating disorder. After a suicide attempt goes mostly right Death (who looks and sounds like Kurt Cobain) offers Lisa a big choice. Die or become Famine, the Black Rider of the Apocalypse. Death needs to replace Famine because War killed the last one. Lisa chooses to take Famine’s place and goes on a couple of wild adventures on the back of her trusty steed – who is partial to sweets. In taking on Famine’s role, Lisa learns that balance is the key. Whilst generally Famine takes away the ability for food sources to grow whether it’s through drought or flood, or rats, and causes starvation, Famine must also balance the scales of her station and give back what she has taken away.
The issues of eating disorders are handled very realistically – particularly the alienation from her best friend and her boyfriend (although not so much) by Lisa, when her best friend comes to suspect Lisa has anorexia. We are also given a look into Lisa’s mind set – the ‘Thin Voice’ in her head, and the not-so-subtle encouragement of her eating disorder by a newer friend who is bullimic. After seeing the world through Famine’s eyes for a while, Lisa as Famine sees the whole bingeing and purging routine that goes with bullimia in a rather graphic and eye-opening light (for both Lisa and the reader).
Whilst the ending does seem a bit abrupt and at odds with the beginning; after destroying War and coming to the realisation that she would like to be herself – her actual self – Death allows her to step down from the postion as Famine. Lisa admits to her parents & boyfriend that she does indeed have a problem and really needs some help with it.