Michael Grant – Hunger

106 hours 29 minutes

Suddenly it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

An uneasy calm has settled over Perdido Beach. But soon fear explodes in desperation as starvation sets in. For the ‘normals’ the buck must stop somewhere – with the ‘freaks’.

More and more kids are developing strange powers and, just as frighteningly, so are the animals in the FAYZ: swimming bats and deadly worms with razor-sharp teeth are just the beginning.

And in the background, in an abandoned mineshaft, lies the greatest danger of all – and he too needs to be fed…

Last October I reviewed Gone by Michael Grant over at the now retired NextRead blog. At the time, after finishing I couldn’t wait to read its sequel, Hunger. Unfortunately, while I was able to borrow the book from my co-worker (thank you Joke!) I kept getting distracted by all kinds of new and shiny books. Last month I decided that six months was just ridiculous though and I firmly placed Hunger near the top of my To Be Read Pile. And when I finally started it last week, I flew through it in three nights. It was just as much a page turner as Gone had been. It only took me a few pages to be immersed back into the world of the FAYZ and it was wonderful seeing old favourites again and meet new characters and to see how events unfolded in the FAYZ.

Hunger is scary, both in the events portrayed and in the social commentary it provides. The divide between the ‘freaks’ and the ‘normals’ is an echo of social and political developments we see around us every day. The struggle between those in power and those who think they should be in power, the conflict between Regular and Other, and the way these internal struggles benefit ‘the enemy’, in this case the kids up at Coates Academy, these are all things that are happening in the world today. What’s more, they are often what causes war. Where Gone was more post-apocalyptic in nature, covering how the kids survive after the FAYZ hits and how they deal with the consequences, Hunger turns to true dystopia, as the order imposed in Gone, both down in Perdido Beach and up the hill at Coates, slowly starts to crumble under its own flaws.

I love the character growth we see in many of the previous book’s protagonists such as Sam, Astrid, Lana and Quinn. I particularly loved that Quinn carves out a place for himself by making himself useful on his own terms and initiative and not by being just Sam’s mate. He works hard to redeem himself for his actions in Gone and succeeds. And I loved Albert, who maybe embodies capitalism, but does so out of a good heart and we actually see him do research and not just making stuff up by the seat of his pants. I can’t help but love a kid that goes to the library to study at night voluntarily! Some of the kids that played larger roles in the first book have taken a backseat in Hunger and instead we are introduced to several new kids, both those with (developing) powers and those without, and some of those more in the background in Gone are brought into the limelight. There are some interesting kids there: Hunter, Zill, Brianna, Dekka, Brother John, Sister Mary, but my favourite new PoV was Duck. For me, Duck was the hero of the book and I loved his inner dialogues. Moving from a mousy, scared kid to someone who is afraid, but does what he needs to anyway, his storyline was touching and often funny too.

In Hunger there is another good mystery at the core of the story; where we found out what had caused the FAYZ in Gone, we find out more about The Darkness this time around. We learn what The Darkness is and what it wants. I found the concept and visualisation of The Darkness pretty creepy, then again I’m a wuss and I hate insects, so the fact that its appearance is described in terms of crawling herds of ants or bugs doesn’t do it any favours. The mystery is played out at just the right pace and the consequent actions of our protagonists don’t have a rushed feeling, even though the novel moves at a frenetic pace and takes place within a little over four days, 106 hours and 29 minutes to be exact. It all fits together seamlessly and at no point did I wonder why on earth a particular character would do what they did, while never becoming predictable either.

Hunger was a great, thrilling read which included some heart-stopping moments. There were some scenes where I had to remind myself to breathe, they were that gripping. It doesn’t suffer from second-book-in-a-series slump at all, it moves the story right along, without ever bogging down or being boring. Hunger is a strong sequel to Gone, I hope its successors Lies and Plague can live up to them.

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