Monday, April 1, 2013
Hunger by Melvin Burgess
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A COUPLE OF SPOILERS. (But if you read this review, you won't want to read the actual book anyway, so it's no loss.)
If I didn't know better, I'd think this was book was written by a 15-year-old. The writing is very simplistic, like a children's book, with uncomplicated sentence structure and repetitiveness--I mean a LOT. There was a bare minimum of character background information or setting description. Some people might call this type of writing "stark", but to me, stark writing has a kind of poetry to it, and this was decidedly unartful.
This is my first book by Melvin Burgess, but he's supposedly very good at writing YA books. I'd never have guessed. There was a lot of supernatural in this book, but the least believable part were the characters. These kids are supposed to be in university, but they never do homework, go to class, or even talk about class. They don't even mention the fact that they are all missing their classes (or, since the story takes place in the late fall, EXAMS) during their adventure. The only time the school actually appears in the book is when Coll--the sexually promiscuous nerd--uses a school lab to make poison without being noticed by anyone.
In fact, these kids managed to torture monsters, transport and bury bodies, and destroy property without anyone else in town noticing at all. Coll uses multiple tools in her parent's garage to beat on a vampire for over an hour without waking anyone in the house. That's one sound-proof garage.
These characters just aren't nearly as scared as they should be. They take breaks in the middle of world-ending evil to go on holiday, party and get drunk. They should be frightened out of their wits and fearing for their sanity, not cracking jokes, watching movies and getting in on with each other. One of them had the gall to complain that their housemate Ivan had drank all the beer "as usual" just hours after Beth was forced to strangle him to death. And nobody even flinched. There were no psychological consequences to any of the bizarre and violent things that happened to these kids.
The relationship that developed between Coll and Louis was ridiculous. She's had a crush on him since grade two, and he's never been interested. According to the narrative, he suddenly sees something in her behaviour during this crisis that changes his mind, though I'll be damned if I know what it is. If I spend ten-plus years just not be attracted to to someone, seeing them display a bit of bravery isn't going to miraculously swoop me off my feet. All those things Louis found unattractive about Coll are still there, and once this is all over, opportunities to be brave (or whatever it is he now sees in her) are going to be few and far between.
Who is this book written for? I would hesitate to call it YA, due to all the references to sex, and the drinking and swearing. Hunger is like a children's book starring young adults with 18+ themes. So maybe the intended audience is adults who read at a fifth grade level.
The plot idea isn't horrible, and I liked that instead of Louis's God swooping in to save the day, he actually finds out there is no God. That was a nice twist you'd never get from an American YA author.
Conclusion: SKIP THIS BOOK, it's not worth it.