Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review & Interview with Jackie Morse Kessler

I received an ARC of Hunger, Jackie Morse Kessler's new young adult novel. As soon as I finished reading her book, I emailed asking if I could do an interview. You can read my review after the interview with Jackie. Hunger is an important book for parents and teens to read, and make available. I would love to see it in every high school library.

Brenda: I just finished Hunger, and loved it on two levels, one as a reader and another as a mom. I have a daughter who is ten, so we are just getting into self image issues. I loved the story itself, and the lessons it taught.

JK: YAY! My big hope for HUNGER is that it reaches its audience.

Brenda: When you were writing Hunger was it difficult to keep the "voice" of the main character and not get into lecture mode? I thought you did a great job with that aspect.

JK: Thank you! Once I figured out who the main character was, and what the purpose of the Horsemen was, the story just flowed. (Then again, it’s been percolating for the better part of ten years.) The only active restraints I had when I was writing HUNGER was not to describe what Lisa looked like physically or to give her actual weight. But everything else, including the voice, just came naturally while writing.

Brenda: I don't want to give spoilers, so I'll try to word this carefully. Will we see Famine again in the other books of the series? I know the second book, Rage, is coming out in 2011. I'm guessing we will see Death again:)

JK: Yes, Famine plays a role in the next book, RAGE. And Death has a bigger part in that book as well. (It’s like he says to Lisa in HUNGER: Death and War have always worked well together. **grin**)

Brenda: I know you write urban fantasy as well as YA, did you have to get into a different frame of mind to write YA? I have 16 and 17 year old sons, and sometimes it's like being in the midst of an alien drama.

JK: At first, I didn’t know whether the protagonist of HUNGER was going to be a teen or a little older. But when I finally “discovered” Lisa, everything just happened. I didn’t try to channel my inner teen as much as I remembered being in the eating-disorder mindset, because Lisa’s in the throes of the disease: so much of what she thinks about, and what she does, involves food. Writing HUNGER was very cathartic.

Brenda: I love the Post Mortem feature on your blog, and noticed you started it quite awhile before the release of Hunger. Have you had fun with Death interviewing other author's characters? I can't imagine he's not a huge hit with the girls, despite his brooding nature. (Read Post Mortem here.)

JK: Thanks again! I have to get back to doing the interviews; I got a little side-tracked over the past few months. It’s a blast getting to work with other authors. As for Death, well, the characters who aren’t terrified of him seem to like him. (He’s really not so bad, once you get past the whole Grim Reaper aspect.)

Brenda: This last question is off topic...I know you have two children, so one mom to another, what is the most surprising thing you have found about raising kids?

JK: How they listen to everything we say! I discovered that I talk back to drivers when I’m in my car when, one day after school the Tax Deductions were in the back seat, and when we were in traffic, Tax Deduction the Elder belted out, “COME ON, PERSON!!! DRIVE!!!” Heh. Whoops. (Of course, the listening goes only so far. When I tell the Tax Deductions to clean their rooms, suddenly they get so focused on whatever it is they’re in the middle of that they just don’t hear me. I suppose it’s selective hearing.)

Brenda: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and for writing such a fun, but profound book. I think it will make a difference to many teens and their families.

JK: Thank you so much, Brenda! You have no idea how thrilling it is to read that. And thank you for taking the time not only to read and review HUNGER but also to come up with the interview questions.


Author: Jackie Morse Kessler
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Graphia
Released: October 18, 2010

Summary: 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?

I asked to review Hunger, and received an digital copy from the publisher. I was intrigued with the premise of a 17 year old anorexic girl being given the mantle of a Horsemen of the Apocalypse as Famine. I truly hope that parents, friends and relatives of a loved one with an eating disorder will purchase this book. The author has captured the mind set of a young woman with such a poor self image that it brings her to the brink of death. Before she can take that final step, Death delivers a package to her in the guise of a delivery guy, and later appears to her as the lead singer of a grunge band. Former lead singer, I should say, since he committed suicide. Death is witty, hip and has brooding down to an art. He doesn't mince words with Lisa, the main character, and she proceeds to live her normal life, not giving up the dangerous eating and exercise habits, while testing out the powers bestowed on her as Famine.

I don't want to give spoilers because that ruins the book for the reader, but I love that the author doesn't end Hunger with any easy magical fixes. Life isn't easy, and Lisa learns that life and death is not the same for everyone. Sometimes we need to look outside ourselves and the voices that tell us our life sucks.

The writing in Hunger is teen friendly, which in my mind means that teens will identify with the thoughts of the characters in this book. I thought the parents were portrayed as loving but frustrated, as they try to understand what is going on with their daughter. Though there are important lessons experienced, this book is not a public service commercial or a lecture on eating disorders. Hunger is a novel that will appeal to teens and adult fans of YA, even if they have not experienced anorexia in their own lives. It's a mix of urban fantasy, teen romance and a tale of love and friendship.

Mom Notes: If you are a parent with kids, whether they are toddlers, teens or preteens, you should read Hunger. It gives the reader a true sense of what goes on in the mind of a teen with self image issues. ALL teens have these issues in varying degrees, whether their parents realize it or not. The best thing we can do for our children is to be prepared, listen and talk with them, not AT them. I would recommend Hunger for ages 13 and older.

Hunger is available on Amazon. You can also find out more about the series here:

A portion of proceeds will be donated to the National Eating Disorders

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler will be released in April of 2011 from Harcourt Graphia.

Sixteen-year-old self-injurer Melissa Miller exchanges her razor blade for the sword of War, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

A portion of proceeds from Rage will be donated to the organization To Write Love On Her Arms.

If you would like to keep up with contests for Jackie's books, and the interviews on Post Mortum visit the author's blog:


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Jan von Harz said...

I have Hunger in my TBR pile and hope to get to it soon. I love your interview and review both have me thinking I need to put this book on top of the pile. Thanks