Nov 15, 2010

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

“Normal people didn’t perceive the otherworldly that hover in this world. It’s a Darwinist safety switch in the mind, something to help keep humans from screaming at shadows.  But deep in our souls, or our collective unconsciousness, we know those things we hesitate to define are there, walking among us.  We know, even if we don’t see.” 
–  Page 114 of Hunger


The concept of Hunger is like no book I have ever read before. It is genius and basic at the same time. The idea of the apocalypse has slipped from the pages of the Bible into common knowledge and while people know varying details of what they expect to come, there seems to be a sort of acceptance, if only on a mythological level.  Jackie Morse Kessler has found a way to tap into our basic understanding of the apocalypse to create a unique and compelling story.  With all the dystopian fiction I have read, it feels quite refreshing to find something that is different. Hunger feels new and refreshed from the same out dystopian story.


The line between apocalyptic and dystopian has blurred and both type of fiction have become popular under the single idea of dystopia. It may not be surprising that we have become obsessed with the horrors of the end of the world, and the possibility that hope will follow.  As we approach 2012, more and more speculation about the end of days comes to a head.  How is it that the Mayans have so much power over us now?  As a society we like the fear of place markers in time, it was about ten years ago when Y2K was on the minds of everyone, had people sitting on the edge of their seat watching the news.


No mater where you drawn your lines in the sand of speculative fiction Hunger is interesting. It hinges on the concept of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death seen within the pages of the Bible.  There horsemen are seen as harbingers; they foretell the coming of the apocalypse.

“We destroy,” Pestilence says. “That’s all we’ve ever done.” p. 147


Kessler pushes these Horsemen beyond mythology into reality and takes us on a surreal adventure.  “Lisabeth Lewis didn’t mean to become Famine.” And thusly the story begins. We learn that Lisabeth has an understanding of hunger, for she is anorexic. And the irony of this is the wash of the story.  The personal battles of such a disorder juxtapose well to the human consequences of famine and the other negativities of the harbingers.  But the book is quite slim for dealing with so many issues.  Especially trying to deal with the scope of the end of days, there is a lot of meat lacking.


Hunger does capture many of the dynamics between teens and the other people in their lives realistically, but I think there may be too much going on in this novel for the number of pages contained in it.  This could be a really well written story about the effects of anorexia on relationships, but the author wanted to push beyond that. And ends up a little over extended. The Horsemen are such a dense and interesting topic to focus on, yet the details of this are not fleshed out enough. Part of this is intentional, for Lisa knows no more about the experience of being a Horseman than the readers do. The author has tried to let the reader explore and discover in the same way as the main character, but unfortunately too much is left out.


Despite all this Hunger was an enjoyable read and I was excited to be able to review it thanks to NetGalley.  There is something exceptionally exciting about reading a book before it is released and I was lucky enough to be able to do this with Kessler’s book.  Unfortunately, life got in the way a little and I wasn’t able to get the review up before the release date.  But as more time passes I feel I more impacted by the book than I initially thought I was.  It is interesting how sometimes it is only the passing of time that makes a book bloom.  This doesn’t erase the issues I had with the book, it just makes them less significant.


Unfortunately, even with the time that has passed the whole story of Hunger seems a little emotionally stilted.  It focuses too much on the forward progression and not on the reality of the moments.  But while the book may have too many elements and not enough detail, it does have a lot of unique details. They can continue to blossom in your mind, as they fail to do on the page. In a way, the story becomes more alive in the mind of the reader than it is on the page.


Hunger is the first book in  series and I am very eager to read the forth coming books.  Kessler has a worthwhile voice that brings depth to young adult fiction.


In closing I would like to share one of the most compelling aspects of this novel, the Thin voice. This was the inner voice that Lisa hears, her eating conscience, that counts her calories, reminds her she’s fat.  It reminded me very much of the voice that many teens have to face when dealing with body image and issues of self worth. This voice was almost haunting in quality and really brought a unique dimension to this story. 

A diet is temporary, the Thin voice said knowingly. Being thin is forever.

Nov 14, 2010

The Sunday Salon– Animal House

Well, I am extremely pleased with the events of my weekend. Besides an unfortunate migraine or two, it was all pretty amazing.  I had a very busy week at the school working on my reading program.  The Accelerated Reader program is finally off the group and people are starting to get excited about it.  All last week and this upcoming week I am going into the classrooms and reading the students How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World.



This book is absolutely adorable, ties in with our theme for the year, and has an AR quiz.  The kids seem to be enjoying sharing it with me.  I am starting to build a relationship with them and many students will come up to me and tell me what they are reading or how many points they have earned.  After prepping and distributing all the supplies and reading to 7 classes I was ready for a relaxing weekend.


Well, relaxing wasn’t really what I got. On Saturday I got up early to go to a swap meet. It was a blast, but it meant that I didn’t get to sleep in.  Later in the day I also went to the pet store and got a free kitten.



I would like you to meet Murray. He is a 2 month old alien/yodaish looking kitten that looked very lonely all by himself at the pet store and therefore needed to come home with me.   Mr. X named him Murray after one of the characters in Flight of the Concords.


I am not exactly sure what I was thinking but now that Murray and the other animals are having a hard time adjusting to each other at 3am, I am pretty sure this wasn’t a good idea.


You see, Murray isn’t the first pet I have gotten recently.  It seems that getting second hand pets are a bit of trend for me. 


My daughters have been begging for a kitten ever since the new pet store opened and Mr. X took them in there and mentioned that maybe we should get a kitten.


I have been wanting an orange kitty for about 3 years now.  So I finally told the girls that if they had an orange kitty at the pet store we could take it home. We checked a couple of times, but no orange kitty.  Until Murray of course.  But here’s the thing…


Meet Milo.  I brought him home from my ex’s house last Sunday.  Here we are in the car driving home.  I went to pick up my daughters after their time with their dad and a little kitten greeted me at the door.  Milo, you might not be able to tell from this angle, is a very handsome cat.  He has some amazing markings.  Ends up he was looking for a new home, so we decided to try him out.


Here’s the thing though…. a few months ago I got a call from my ex offering me this little critter.P1012379





Meet Coco a one year old miniature lab mix.  She is a bit of a trouble maker but pretty good as long as I keep  an eye on her.  My ex had gotten her as a puppy but realized he couldn’t give her the kind of attention she needed.  So she came to live with me.  How could I say no? Otherwise the girls would lose their puppy.



Coco came to live with me and a grumpy guy named Guss.


The interesting thing about Guss is that he is a white cat.  You can see that clearly from this picture of him!


Okay, you can’t see it clearly, but really he is a white cat with black stripes, you can see some of his white under fur on his neck.  Guss is one of the most grumpy cats you will ever meet.  He hates other animals, so how do you tink he is feeling right now?


It may not surprise you that a few years ago I got a call from my ex saying that Guss wasn’t getting along with the rest of his animals and would I want him.  I left it up to the girls and they said they wanted him to come live at our house with me.  After all that though, he seems almost content to have all these visitors here now.  He reminds them to stay out of his way, he likes keeping to himself.


A few people asked to see pictures of my new kitty, so I thought I would share with the class. Milo and Murray have been fighting all day, but finally they are curled up quite near each other.  Murray doesn’t not like to be alone, up until now he has been curled up on me the whole time. 


In  the middle of all of this I have been reading Wither by Lauren DeStefano.  It has been a great treat to get the opportunity to start this YA dystopian novel before its release date.  I have been eager for it since I first heard about it and so far it isn’t disappointing.  Isn’t the cover amazing? And the concept is unique and I am curious to see where the book and the rest of the series will go.


The best thing about Wither is that it reminds me of one of my favorite dystopian novels of all time, The Declaration by Gemma Malley.  Yet it goes in a totally different direction.  I hope to find plenty of relaxing time to read as much of Wither as I can.


What have you read or will you be reading this weekend?  Are you starting to think about getting reading done for the end of the year? Do you have any challenges you still need to complete?

Bibliophile Exploring Dystopia | Food & Community | Utopian Projects