Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hunger - Jackie Morse Kessler

I took this out because sometimes my library doesn't have the immensely popular ebook that I WANT to (re)read, but has this random piece of hilarious garbage instead. And I'm easy with short YAs because usually something is happening, and also they are short.

So. Lisabeth is anorexic and one day, overdoses on her mom's pills because TEENAGERS, RIGHT? Anyway, before she gets more than three pills in, Death shows up and is like, 'Thou art Famine, yo' (omg srsly Death u r so embarrassing).

And there is so, so much eye-rolling. EVERYONE rolls their eyes at everyone else: Lisa at her dad, Pestilence at Death, everyone at everyone. But be ye surprised? Lisabeth names her new, black apocalyptic steed 'Midnight.' I am rolling my eyes, too.

Loki feels it.

And then there are really long, intricate descriptions of mundane things. Like Lisa dismounting Midnight for the first time - Midnight kneels down, Lisa's left leg is here and then it's here, her right leg is here and then here, then both legs are here, she slides feet-first, etc. Or a later scene where Kessler bothers to mention Lisa's entire post-bathroom hand-washing, ass-wiping (hahaha, 'swabbed her seat') routine.

Anyway, Lisa roams the world at night, being Famine and going to places where people have accents - '[m]aybe British or Scottish or Australian; she couldn't tell.' That's some scene-setting right there. It's not totally clear what she does as Famine, or what the scope of her powers is. Making people hungry, natch, but also apparently making them full, or extracting all the surplus water from a flooded rice crop, thereby restoring it to viability, and then turning that water into…health, or something, and injecting it via mind-powers into a starving population. Because Famine also = the opposite of famine.

So there's that angle. And then the anorexia (because, I think, irony?). And for all the slag that Issues Books get, I think they're VERY IMPORTANT, and apparently the author has a personal history with eating disorders, and this PROBABLY makes my opinion totally moot, but I would have liked it to be a little more subtle than 'When she was thin, everything would be perfect.'

Please don't take this gif literally and come after me, guys.

And obviously her mom is Career-Oriented, and her dad is affectionate but distracted, having 'enough on his plate without keeping track of all Lisa's whimsies' (which, I guess, are like tiny whims?). And obviously she has a fight with her Actual Best Friend (and later has to face the 'horror and confusion' of having to talk to that friend, with whom she fell out a week ago) and partners up with a bulimic enabler.  Friends only come in two types.

And Lisa is all jealous of Tammy (the enabler) because she can purge and that just seems so In Control Of Shit, but then Lisa somehow gets into Tammy's brain (via her poorly-defined Famine powers) and tags along for a purge and experiences all her self-loathing and things, and feels betrayed. What the actual fuck. 'Lisa had felt as if she'd found a sister, someone who understood her own fears about being fat. But Tammy didn't understand any more than Lisa did.' THIS LINE OF THINKING MAKES NO SENSE. You think she understands you, but feel betrayed when she doesn't understand you MORE than you understand you? Did you think she understood the secret to life? Or what. I am legitimately confused about this part.

And the continuity is sloppy, because one morning she wakes up 'so horribly full' and then has, oh my god, an HOUR-LONG BOWEL MOVEMENT (after which the infamous 'seat-swabbing'). Later that morning, though admittedly in the next chapter, she has a falling-out with her boyfriend and former-best-friend and is SO MAD that 'for the first time in who knew how long, Lisabeth Lewis didn't feel hungry.' OOOOOOH I KNOW HOW LONG. I know. Pick me.

Also, is it a thing that when you're anorexic, your cheeks hurt when you smile? Because literally, every time she smiles.

Did I totally forget to mention War, who is maybe-probably sleeping with Death (which Lisa thinks is really gross even though she thinks Death is kind of hot [Death, through Kessler's total lack of ability to build original characters, is Kurt Cobain. Or at least walking around in his body])? Anyway, War is all mad because Lisa starts using her Famine powers for good, so at the end War throws down (with a weird perspective-shift to her pov, and then Lisa recounts the entire scene from her point of view ['War had shouted, and blustered, and threatened. Blah blah blah. Lisa had tried talking to her, but really…' etc. All of which we just read happen in real time and active voice]) and then they fight and Lisa wins because she understands something about her own strength, or something.

And then she's not Famine anymore, because she tells Death she's not. 'I want to live my life.' WHICH IS NOT HOW THE DEAL WORKS, which I remember, because the beginning of the book was 123 pages ago, when Death offered to either make her his Famine or to finish the suicide she'd started. THOSE were her options.

And then she went to the bathroom, 'lowered her pajama bottoms and her panties, and she squatted over the toilet lid. She did her business, blotted, and flushed.' WHYYYYY IS THIS. Because then she has an anorexic moment in the mirror? She could have done that without all the weird detail. Anywerd, she overpowers her anorexic urges and tells her dad she needs help and goes off to an anorexic-camp and gets better, the end.

And I actually liked that part, where she asked for help and worked hard and came home and was really nervous about eating in front of her family, and everyone was really supportive but it was still stressful. THAT BIT WAS GOOD. But it was also, like, three pages.

Five caterpillars. You are killing me, 2014.


Reading Rambo said...

Maybe you should read one of the ZILLION BOOKS I SAID WERE AWESOME.

Except we agree on like two books. So maybe not that thing.

L. E. Carmichael said...

I read Rage, which is the one where War becomes War. I love the concept of this series and I really wanted to like the book, but I just couldn't. I couldn't make it work on the "this is literally happening" level, so I tried reading it as a protracted metaphor, and that didn't hang together either. I hate it when books are all "awesome idea, not-so-awesome execution." It's much worse than "lousy idea, and oh look, lousy."

highdivingboard said...

What in the ever loving fuck? I have low requirements for my YA stuff, but coherence and a lack of details about pooping is on it.

highdivingboard said...

What in the ever loving fuck? I have low requirements for my YA stuff, but coherence and a lack of details about pooping is on it.