Monday, October 18, 2010
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
1st in Series
Summary: Lisa is a teenage girl with typical parent, boyfriend, and friend problems. Except she's anorexic and has just been named Famine of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now she travels the world and sees the devastating effects of famine and grapples with her own power and her critical inner voice.
Thoughts: I actually had no interest in this at first (yes, I judged it without knowing anything about it) until I learned that it was about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in YA. I've never heard of anything like that so I thought it could be really interesting.
The imagery was the best and most powerful part of this book for me. There are descriptions of food that made me so hungry and descriptions of famine that broke my heart thinking about those who starve every day while I am able to feed myself. There was a particularly difficult passage to read about one girl's bulimia routine and another when Lisa unleashes her power unwittingly. Lisa's battle with the Thin voice was also poignant and heartbreaking. I have struggled with image issues thinking about how I could be thinner and how I'm unlovable due to my weight. I'm currently in a good place but I think this topic is relevant to most of its target audience.
The characters were somewhat underdeveloped. We spend all of our time with Lisa and get to know her but her boyfriend and two friends are pretty one note; her parents are largely nonentities; and the other Horsemen have minimal presences (Pestilence has one conversation with her; War has two; and Death pops up a couple of times). While Death was probably my favorite of the other three Horsemen, the fact that I adore Terry Pratchett's DEATH from his Discworld novels means that I generally find other portrayals lacking, as happened in this case. This worked for me because I really just wanted Lisa to get better and she needed to reach that place on her own instead of being forced in to it.
In the Author's Note, Kessler shares vulnerably about her own struggle with bulimia and about a girl who inspired this character.
Overall: Short but powerful; excited for the rest of the series.
Cover: I was confused at first about the scale until I learned that a scale is the traditional representation of Famine; then it makes perfect sense.
I have also been fortunate enough to receive Rage, the second book, and I will try to read and review it closer to the release date.