Today, I'm reviewing Hungry by H.A. Swain. I'll be honest: I wasn't expecting much from the book, but I was honestly surprised by some of thought provoking ideas that Swain brings up about food scarcity.
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
Format read: E-ARC
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.
I've definitely read enough articles about increasing food scarcity throughout the years to wonder just what people are going to do in future generations, and I'll be honest: the description of people consuming pills for food, made me think about that scene in I Capture the Castle, when Cassandra's father talks about this very scenario, and made me want to figure out how this scenario actually plays out.
While I ultimately have some mixed feelings about the ARC, I still think that it's worth it to check the book out. And hopefully, my review will give you an idea of why.
Things that worked:
I know that the premise of Hungry has been criticized a lot on Goodreads, but I think that H.A. Swain has done a fairly decent job of imagining a world where food would be scarce, and the ramifications that would have on humanity on a whole. So while I think that there were some problems with Swain's overall execution, a lot of her ideas alone are worth the read.
* The world-building
Swain does a good job of building on her premise, with a world that is full of believable details. Things like the divided sectors of the city or the ring roads, all exist to some degree today, and Swain gives readers a good nudge into making that leap from believing that our reality of today can easily become Thalia's reality of tomorrow.
Even some of Swain's technology is innovative, and you can see, through her details, why a desperate society would want to create technology to help them relive days of old. And as silly as I found some of the decisions by the characters to name themselves after food, that type of idolatry does make sense in a society where food has become something of legend.
* The writing
This is Swain's third or fourth novel, and readers will likely recognize that she's getting better with each book. Even though I don't necessarily agree with a lot of the characterizations and/or descriptors that she provides throughout the novel - more on this later - the writing was smooth and easy-to-read. I was definitely interested in the book enough to keep going.
Bottom line: I'll definitely be interested in checking out her future work.
Things that didn't work:
Swain tries to make it very clear early on that Thalia has been very sheltered her entire life. While Swain does do a great job of showing how and why Thalia has a very limited understanding of how the real world works, it doesn't necessarily translate into having an engaging or likable heroine.
Instead, I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes at Thalia's cluelessness, and face palming that she would miss such obvious plot points from a mile away. I don't know - maybe I'm unreasonably expecting her to react to situations the way I would, because I've had the foresight/knowledge/exposure, but still. I wanted her to try to at least use her brain every once in awhile.
* The relationship
Without giving any spoilers away, the relationship that exists in this book is pretty much a classic example of insta-love. I generally don't really care about insta-love in a book, but even I was going whoa, Nellie! in this case.
Also, I really wasn't a big fan of the fact that Thalia and Basil fight a LOT throughout the course of this book. I think Swain thinks that forbidden relationship + lots of fighting = realistic and hot, but it honestly got tiring to read after awhile. There were times I just wanted to tell Thalia, "Girl, this guy is an idiot with a bad temper. Run. Run far away from this nonsense."
Things to consider:
If anything, Swain actually makes you think about what it takes to make the food that you eat, in a reflective and thoughtful way. Without getting too sentimental about it, I found myself actually pondering the creation of my food while I was eating, and respecting the overall farm-to-fork process even more.
This isn't wholly relevant to the story, but I thought it would be an interesting point for me to bring up.
However, the book is definitely hindered by the writing, especially its characterizations. Because of my issues with Thalia's uneven development and my serious issues with her relationship with Basil, I would recommend this book, but with hesitation.
Read this if you're looking for a different take on a dystopian, with some great ideas that will leave you thinking.
Recommend for fans of: Matched, Article 5, Inside Out.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of Hungry from Macmillan via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!