Review: Hungry by HA Swain

Hungry
HA Swain

Feiwel & Friends
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Released June 3, 2014
384 pages
YA / Dystopian / Creepy

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In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that's what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

H. A. Swain delivers an adventure that is both epic and fast-paced. Get ready to be Hungry.

You guys! This book!

I’m tempted to leave my review just like that, but I won’t because that could be a really good “You guys!” or a not so great “You guys!” In this case it’s the good kind. If there is one thing in this world that I love more than books, it’s food, so I was severely uncomfortable yet morbidly fascinated by the concept of Swain’s Hungry from the first pages. Then midway through the book took a sharp turn and drove right into creeptown only to progressively get creepier as the book reached its final pages. I don’t know what subject matter Swain has covered in the past, but this book freaked me out.

Thalia lives in a very materialistic world where no one has to eat food because inoculations and a scientifically perfected liquid have negated hunger after a devastating war that resulted in famine and starvation a generation before her. She lives in a world full of flashy tech distractions that fuel a massive society of consumerism that somehow Thalia has avoided buying in, preferring the vintage clothing from her grandmother’s younger days and hacking into the corporate overlord’s games to try to prove a point.

Then one day she wakes up with an ache deep inside of her, one that causes her abdomen to make crazy noises and causes her scientist mother real concern. She has started feeling hungry in a world where there is no food. This hunger leads her to cross paths with Basil, a boy from outside the walls that surround her privileged life in the inner city. He is from the slums that Thalia didn’t even realized existed, where he has to fight for each bottle of liquid nutrition just to survive as he dreams of a world where food isn’t forbidden. Conveniently he has also started feeling hunger and with the hunger comes to building unruly hormones of being a teenager.

The first half of the book focuses on the world building as Thalia discovers how small of a world she’d grown up with and how corrupt the corporation that rules the country truly is. She finds a slew of people forced to live in poverty outside the dayglow world of her immersive games and interactive advertisements. Midway the book makes a drastic change in both scenery and tone, almost becoming a different book all together. This half is full of creepy conspiracy and general crazy floating through the air like oxygen. It is disturbing and uncomfortable and yet Swain manages to write about these twisted ideas in a way that grabbed me and refused to let me put the book down.

Thalia is a naïve teenage girl that grew up in a bubble of privilege, so she is an easy proxy for the reader in discovering the world without it seeming like one exposition dump after another. As the illusion of the world around her begins to crumble, she grows distinctively until she starts questioning authority figures and refusing to take things at face value. That sort of smart character growth is my favorite and Swain writes the transition naturally without anything feeling forced or out of character.

I have no idea if this is a standalone. There is a door cracked open at the end that could lead to an action-packed second volume, but then again, everything is wrapped up enough to satisfy the particular story Swain was telling. Hungry is an out-of-the-ordinary that challenged my own expectations while maintaining a solid pacing full of action and danger in a world that is both horrifying to a foodie like me and uncomfortably realistic. I have a feeling this one will hang out under the radar, but it reallydeserves more attention.

 

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. In turn I'm providing my honest review.