Monday, August 4, 2014

YA Review: Hungry (H.A. Swain)

Title: Hungry
Series: standalone
Author: H.A. Swain
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: Older Teen (some language, sensuality, underage pregnancy, drugs/smoking, serious creepiness, violence)
Told: First Person Singular (Thalia), Present Tense
Format Read: ARC (publisher)
Find It On: Goodreads


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.

*          *          *

Why I Read It: It sounded like such an original and interesting premise. (And it was.)

Cover: Love the sinister simplicity, and that soft blue is absolutely gorgeous. Sad that the tagline doesn't say anything, though - it's more confusing than grabbing.

Series: This is a standalone. The world is certainly big enough for a sequel, though.

Writing: Quirky; odd verbs and dialogue tags. Swain dropped us right into the future world on Page 1 with lots of futuristic talk and products, but as most of them were mash-ups of what we know now I only had a few confusing moments. The movement was pretty easy to follow, and she was seriously good with the creepy.

Book Layout: A big problem for me was the lack of chapter breaks. Instead of a normal layout the book was split into four parts, each of which designated a setting shift, with scenes separated by basic breaks. This made the read feel a lot longer than it was, like the story simply rambled on without end. I personally appreciate chapter breaks - they make a book feel like it's moving faster and encourage me to read longer because it's so easy to say, "I'll read just one more." Reading "just one more" scene in this book simply wasn't the same, more like pulling myself up one more rung on the ladder when I'm already exhausted. It was a "different" idea that just didn't work for me.

Setting: As Hungry is our possible future, it was set in a currently existing location. However, I never figured out where exactly that was, and I don't know that it was ever specifically told. I felt there were quite a few hints though, so maybe I just missed it? That aside, Swain did an amazing job introducing the structure of the world. It began as if Thalia lead an average life but then in gradual steps it is discovered this is most definitely not the case, not only in her "Loop" but in her world. The future mash-up products were a little ridiculous (EntertainArena, Silkese, Synthamil), but they did their job of feeling foreign and futuristic yet still familiar enough for us Relics to comprehend.

Story: This is the tale of Thalia's journey as she discovers what is wrong with her world. While the basic concept is nothing new, Swain made each Part a different subgenre - utopian, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and horror (it was horror to me, anyway *shudders*) - weaving them together into one relatively coherent story. It wasn't perfect, but it was definitely different. Out of the four Parts, Part 2 (The Outer Loop) was probably my favorite - the world really came to life for me there, especially at Basil's house. Part 4 (The Farm) was seriously disturbing. From its first page I got the creeps, and if it hadn't been the last Part of the book I would've stopped reading only a few pages in and never picked it up again. Since I did read it, however, now just the thought of it still makes my skin crawl. When it comes to the creep, Ms. Swain certainly knows her stuff.

Action: Most of the action felt forced, and too much happened coincidentally. For example, Thalia randomly acquired a phone with the ability to cloak, which was such an impractical feature for her. The girl was constantly losing her phone, but her father created a phone for her that could go invisible? Yeahno. But when she wanted to keep her phone with her on the run and hide it from people, suddenly the impractical cloaking feature came in handy. In this instance and in many more I felt the hand of the author making things happen, not things happening naturally, and it caused Thalia to act out of character more often than not.

Characters/Romantic Relationship: While Thalia was supposed to be 17, she read more like 12. But given the environment she was raised in, this was plausible enough I guess. After previously having her emotions and hormones suppressed, she was just discovering things that naturally hit one in middle or early high school. And if you hadn't eaten in 17 years, you'd be a bit petulant and cranky too. Still, she was completely driven by her hormones through the entire story, and it got old fast. Given her upbringing she should've been smarter than she was, but Basil always brought her down, making her feel stupid and small. Needless to say, I despised Basil. He yelled at Thalia, blamed her for his problems, made fun of her, made her feel like being a privy - which she couldn't help - was the worst form of life. He was an idiot and desperate; he abandoned Thalia several times, never listened to her, made her do things she didn't want to do. The only good thing he did in the entire book was awaken her to the world's problems. The fact that she fell for him, stayed with him, and wouldn't go anywhere without him because she was convinced he was "The One" only proves her hormonally-driven stupidity. I constantly wished she would come to her senses, or that he would die and put us all out of our misery.

Conclusion: I really wanted to love this one, but while the world blew me away, the juvenile characters, sluggish layout, and forced story left much to be desired. If you like your dystopians with a heavy helping of creep and don't mind hormonally-driven instalove, bully boyfriends, or a lack of chapter breaks, then maybe this is a book for you.

Will I Read Again?: No


  1. Hmm... despite your misgivings, I think I might read this one. I actually like the idea of a standalone story and I love dystopian. I find that most characters are extremely juvenile and fall in love instantly - it's just something I've come to expect in a YA novel. Thanks for the heads up about the weird formatting. I hate that too. Some of Stephen King's novels read this way... Thank you for sharing such a great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. You're right about the deluge of instalove and juvenile characters as of late! It's becoming WAY too common. And we definitely don't have enough standalones, especially with dystopians, which was one of the many reasons I was so excited about this one. If I'd gone into it knowing about the odd layout, my opinion might've been a little different, who knows. Hope you like it better than I did! :)

  2. The layout bothered me so much when reading. Not having the usual chapters for breaks just made me feel like I would never finish reading the book. Who knew it would bother me so much?

    1. I know, right? Starting was the worst, waiting for that first chapter to end and then eventually realizing it never would. T-T

  3. This one sounds like an interesting read. I don't know if I would like it very much, but I'm interested in getting a feel for the none-chapter-break book and seeing if it bugs me? This was a great review and now I'm also curious about The Farm...

    1. If I'd gone into it knowing about the odd formatting my opinion might've been different, but going in blind made it torture. T-T It was definitely an "interesting" experience, though. If you're going to experiment with an oddly formatted book, this could be an okay choice - the world was fantastic, at least. And I'd be interested to see what you think of The Farm. *shudder*