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Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
After reading Hunger, I waited so very anxiously for this book. The premise, teens expressing the (unfortunate) traits that relate to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are selected and fumble their way through accepting the job, is fascinating and Kessler’s writing is utterly enthralling.
In Rage we are introduced to Missy, a young woman who is driven to cutting herself to maintain control of her excessive emotions. She is afraid of losing control. High School is swamped with emotion, and much of it can be difficult for anyone to process with grace, much less someone who already has a tendency towards self harm. At a party Missy is humiliated past all hope of control by an ex boyfriend, she flees and cuts. When Death offers Missy the Sword of War in the aftermath, she accepts and then has to come to terms with the spirit of War who is not at all concerned with the control so precious to her.
Rage deals with the cutting issue without allowing that to take the readers’s focus away from the story. All of Missy’s actions feel true to the character Kessler is sharing with us and not like recitations of symptoms from a medical manual. Missy’s issues support the novel, but are not the singular driving force.
Rage is a sequel in theme to Hunger, but they are wonderfully unique from each other. I felt Rage to be the stronger novel. I could not put Hunger down, and it hurt in all the right ways, but it focused much more on the eating disorders and their fall out and the plot seemed to roll out in the background. Kessler is tackling some rough, important topics and weaving them into something accessible, something stealthily informative. It is a brilliant project and I highly recommend reading.
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
I had been looking forward to reading this one for ages. The premise interested me, and I had read enough other reviews stating the book was hard to read, in all the right ways, to make me anticipate seeing for myself.
All the things that seem to have bothered other reviewers didn’t phase me in the least. I think I came at the book from a different angle- I was not looking, precisely, for a supernatural YA novel, I was looking for a new and interesting approach to a serious health condition. Hunger provided a beautifully soul-wrenching view of eating disorders from the POV of a girl who just happens to be Famine. And that is the important thing- the role/power of Famine, while very important to the crisis point and resolution of the novel, is not the novel in of itself. This is less a book about a Horseman (woman?) of the Apocalypse, and more an accounting of a girl’s struggle.
This is also not a book for the squeamish or easily squicked. No punches are pulled. There are some patches that are very rough to read. At the same time, it is handled with a calm, straightforward attention to detail that not only makes the material believable, but really makes an impression on the reader. At the same time, it isn’t preachy, as some books with a Message can get. And it is rare that a book can get me grinning and tearing up at the same time. Kessler took some real hard material and presented it perfectly and accessibly.
That and Kessler’s incarnation of Death? Fantasic.
The supernatural elements were well done and fun as all hell to read. But it is the day to day struggles that were the most compelling to me. I sat down and read the entire book cover to cover. The writing and the story flow well, the plot is sound and well contained, and I am looking forward to reading Rage when it is released.