Jackie Morse Kessler
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world.”
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?
Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home: her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to battle her own inner demons?
Review: The story begins with Lisa’s attempted suicide. Before she can overdose on her mother’s pills, Death intercedes and appoints her as Famine. She thinks she is dreaming, until she notices a large, black horse living in her backyard and Famine’s scales sitting on her kitchen table. At night, Lisa takes on the roll of Famine, the fourth rider in the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. With her horse, Midnight, she travels trying to find ways to bring balance to the world’s famines.
As Lisa discovers her power as Famine, she also discovers how to control the “thin voice” in her head. Instead of being controlled by the negative power of hunger and food, she learns that food has the power to heal. With her new knowledge, Lisa begins to heal the victims of famine and her self at the same time.
This book was very unique. The idea of an anorexic girl becoming Famine—and not being crazy—was a hard one to take in. I didn’t fully appreciate the story until I finished the book and read the author’s note. Knowing that the author had a “Lisa” in her own life really put the story in to perspective for me. I couldn’t help but remember people I knew growing up that battled with eating disorders. With that, I began to appreciate the symbolism throughout the story more than I previously had. I’ve never suffered from an eating disorder, but I would imagine Lisa’s thoughts would be accurate. You could feel her struggle with the “thin voice” throughout the story. I could almost feel her pain every time she saw food.
I thought the characters weren’t as developed as they should be. I never fully appreciated the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War came across as mean and nasty, but that was it. I never got the feeling of an overly threatening persona. Pestilence was disgusting. The description of his cold sores and snotty nose made my stomach flip. Other than that, however, there wasn’t any character development. My favorite of the four Horsemen was Death. A Kurt Cobain styled messenger of death was an interesting touch. I picked up on the Nirvana songs instantly—even if I wasn’t a fan of Nirvana when I was younger. I would have loved to see more character development overall. Since this is the first book in a series, maybe the characters will have a chance to evolve with each addition in the series.
I think I would pair this book with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls. Together, they would be an interesting look into eating disorders. I had a rating for half stars, I would probably give this a 3 ½. But, since the image of the struggle with food seemed so real and horrifying for Lisa, I will give it a 4.
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Graphia; Original edition (October 18, 2010)