by Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Lisabeth Lewis, 17, is anorexic. In the midst of a suicide attempt, she gets a visit from Death, who gives her an old set of scales and tells her to "go thee out unto the world" as Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
As the eating disorder destroys her life, she travels on her black horse to the far corners of the earth, seeing the effects of hunger firsthand. Determined to do something about it, Lisa unwittingly makes herself an enemy. Can she overcome this new challenge as well as save herself?
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. I thought the premise sounded interesting (an anorexic teenager who becomes Famine... how fascinating!)... but ultimately, I wasn't that impressed.
I could never relate to Lisa, or to any of the other characters in the book, for that matter. I think part of the problem was the writing. It was third-person omniscient, and there was way too much telling (and not showing). As a result, I always felt there was too much of a distance between the character and the reader... and that made it hard to care. Most of the minor characters came off as caricatures, one-dimensional beings that I constantly felt like rolling my eyes at. And I couldn't figure out the time period for a while. Tammy, Suzanne, and Lisa? I don't know any 17-year-olds with those names; I figured they were all born in the 1970s, until there was a mention of cell phones. All told, the only character I really liked was Famine's horse, Midnight, with its penchant for pralines and rhododendrons.
Probably the most interesting part of the book for me was the author's note, but it also seemed a bit contradictory. In one breath she mentions having briefly had bulimia and then getting over it without any sort of therapy... and in the next breath she says, "[eating disorders] sure aren't something people can just turn on and off. Eating disorders are a disease." I'm not sure what a person with an eating disorder is supposed to take from that apparent contradiction. That the author didn't really have bulimia? That she did have an eating disorder, but could turn it off? I don't know.
All in all, I don't think I'd recommend this book. The premise was interesting, but the whole book was light on plot and I just didn't find the characters engaging.
Overall: 2.4 out of 5