Friday, July 3, 2020

Book Review and Writing Lessons: Hunger by Michael Grant

It's been three months since all the adults disappeared. Gone. Food ran out weeks ago and starvation is imminent. Meanwhile, the normal teens have grown resentful of the kids with powers. And when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, chaos descends upon the town. There is no longer right and wrong. Each kid is out for himself and even the good ones turn murderous. But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried deep in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

Series: Gone (Book 2)
Genre: YA Science-Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books; 1 edition (April 8, 2014)
Page Count: 608 pages

I've made it through book two of the Gone series and man, was it crazy! Things just get worse and worse for the poor kids of the FAYZ but thankfully, there was lots of hope along the way.

The Plot: Though there's a literal ticking clock with each chapter, there's also the invisible ticking clock of everyone slowly starving as the title implies. The kids have to find food and soon or they're all done for. On top of that, there's conflict from the Coates kids and the mysterious gaiaphage. Michael Grant just knows how to compound trouble on the characters! The first book took me some time to get into but this one I was pulled in straight away. The climax was insane, but there was a great ending. Like the last book the prose is still pretty rough, but with a slight improvement. However, like before the dialogue is spot on. 

The Characters: All of the kids really act like kids. From forgetting to do things, to being lazy, to missing their parents, to just being overwhelmed with all of the enormous stress of this crazy situation. You never forget that these are children who are going through this. 

I found my new favorite character being Albert in this book. He became the hero as to how the kids began to get food. I found myself relating to him the most since I would be doing a lot of the things he did. XD I got a little irritated with Sam and Astrid when they were upset with his economic plans, but I grew to like the pair again as the book went. They're just such a cute couple! 

There are so many characters in this series it's hard to keep track of them all, but I also really like Lana and her bravery and defiance.

The Setting: The setting hasn't changed since the kids are still stuck in the Fayz. Not very much new territory is explored in this twenty-mile or so radius, but there is more shown of the state park, the nuclear power plant, agricultural areas, and the gold mine. 

Epic Things: The powers are super cool. There are even new ones in this book like controlling density and entering others' dreams. 

The Theme: Hunger is the title of the book and subsequently the theme. The book doesn't just deal with hunger in the literal sense with starvation which is the focal plot point, but it also deals with the gaiaphage, the mysterious enemy, being "Hungry in the dark" as well as Mary Terrafino's bulimia. Even some other hungers like the hunger for love or even revenge.

Content Cautions: Like the previous book there is a considerable amount of content for a YA novel. Though the characters are fourteen and fifteen, I would think that would be the bare minimum age-appropriate reader level. Anyone younger would have to be pretty mature to handle the content.

In the violence department, the notable parts were worms eating two boys alive and coming out of their faces (this made me squeamish), a kid eaten down to the skeleton by worms (not described in extreme detail but enough to know it was not pretty), a boy is accidentally murdered by his brain being microwaved with a boy's power, mention of a kid being crushed to roadkill, a ten-year-old is shot in the leg and falls to his death, a girl is smashed by a door, kids hit other kids with bludgeoning instruments, broken limbs, lots of blood, world's worst road burn, kids are mentioned to have eaten dogs and cats, and a kid being tortured by being whipped.

Then there is also some innocent kissing, a boy thinks very vaguely about being in bed with a girl, and there is a lesbian character. Kids also become alcoholics and addicted to substances, including weed. Most of it is mentioned in passing but there's a scene where kids are smoking joints. A girl is bulimic and makes herself throw up. Lastly, kids give the middle finger a couple of times and they say d*** and a** once or twice.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:

1.) Concussions Aren't a Joke - A number of kids in this series are hit across the head with bludgeoning objects like crowbars and baseball bats. Some even die or sustain permanent damage such as facial tics or brain damage. 

How this can be applied to writing: Getting hit in the head isn't a joke. It's slapstick in kids' movies or common in action movies for people to be hit in the head and get knocked out and wake up with just a headache. As someone who's had a concussion and known people who've had them just getting a mild concussion from blacking out for a minute or two is really not fun. Do your research on concussions!

2.) Accurate Portrayal of a Self-Harm Mental Illness -  Mary Terrafino is bulimic and she keeps this secret to herself. As is characteristic with the illness she feels like no matter what she does she's not thin enough. She binge eats then forces herself to throw it all up. But what really made this portrayal stand out was when she mentioned that she knew what she was doing was wrong, but she shut off those warning bells. 

How this can be applied to writing: People are often more self-aware of themselves than you think. In the fog of mental illness, a person can try to grasp for light but instead reject it and push themselves farther down. It's sad, but it adds depth to a character when you add these sorts of struggles.

3.) Characters Getting Stressed -  Sam Temple is put in charge of over three hundred kids and he's only fourteen. After a while, this really really wears on him. He can't sleep and his mental health takes a huge hit. He starts lashing out at his loved ones. It's just too much for a teenager.

How this can be applied to writing: Stress isn't something to underestimate either. It can hurt health and relationships. When characters go through stressful situations like surviving in the wilderness or fighting for their lives, don't forget that this is going to take a mental toll on your characters.

Conclusion: A good sequel and I'm excited to read the next one!

About the Author: Michael Grant was born in a manger.

Okay, no he wasn't. And that was a stupid thing to say. There was no manger. It was a log cabin. A log cabin in Los Angeles.

Or possibly a trailer.

And then while defending his country (technically it was his father, he was just an Army brat,) he moved all over the country and to France and became the incredibly well-educated, well-rounded, well-adjusted . . .

Yeah, okay that last part's a lie, too. The moving everywhere thing is true. But the sad reality is that Michael's a rootless, disconnected, indifferently-educated, sullen, obnoxious, disaffected misanthrope. With no hair. I mean seriously: look at the man's head. Do you see hair? No.

Where was I? I mean he.

Michael Grant is married to Katherine (K.A.) Applegate. They've been together for 36 years. Which doesn't say much for Katherine's judgment does it? And they've been writing for 25ish years, sometimes as partners -- BOYFRIENDS/GIRLFRIENDS, ANIMORPHS, EVERWORLD -- and sometimes on their own.

Michael and Katherine have two kids, Jake 18 and Julia 16. (Feet tall. Get it? 16 feet tall? Ah hah hah. Yeah, okay: not funny.) Anyway, the point is that Michael Grant is the author or co-author of 150 books. Yeah: 150, including most recently the critically-acclaimed FRONT LINES, and of course the also critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, GONE series

I can be reached on Twitter @MichaelGrantBks, or through which has all kinds of interesting content. So, click on over there.

Other Books By This Author I've Reviewed:
Book Review and Writing Lessons: Gone by Michael Grant

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