Hungry by H.A. Swain Review

Monday, March 31, 2014

Title: Hungry
Author: H.A. Swain
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher

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.
In a genre that seems to have become a dime a dozen, it's simple to acknowledge the fact that Hungry stands out from the crowd. It's an intriguing concept to explore in a dystopian novel - a world without food and a government that holds a significant monopoly over all engineered sustenance that the population requires to survive. It's the type of book that will, without a doubt, hold a very captive audience, all the while creating a debate over whether or not a future this broken and irreparably damaged is actually something that could come about. 

I'll admit right off, however, that I'm on the fence about Hungry. I can fully appreciate the risks the author took to create a new and intriguing story, but I also had some inherent plausibility issues with the novel, as well. First and foremost, there is a physiological difference between hunger and nourishment, which I believe is rather forgotten in this novel. Hunger is a feeling, while malnourishment is what would actually come about if society was truly using their medication, or "inocs" to ward of hunger. Hunger is merely a symptom of the real source of the problem, so if the society was simply warding off hunger, I'm not sure it is ever addressded how the society actually receives adequate nourishment so they don't starve to death or eat each other. 

Hungry also features a rather prominent case of insta-love, which I'm fairly used to at this point, but nevertheless found disappointing. Our main character, Thalia Apple has this grumbling in her stomach, and she finds Basil, who is exhibiting all the same symptoms. Basil has created a method of smelling what food used to taste like, and the two bond over this unique hunger pang that nobody else seems to have. It was an instantaneous sort of connection though, and set in a backdrop of a world that's almost entirely virtual, having two flesh and blood characters embrace a virtual reality to find the root cause of their stomach pain just felt forced. I think, had we been given a richer back story of both of our main characters, I might have rooted for them more - or at least been more interested in their story. Instead, I felt as though their personas felt flat, and their love was less than soaring.

I did enjoy how very no-holds-barred Hungry was in terms of corporate greed. Instead of giving us an idea of who might be the bad guy, author, H.A. Swain shows us right out that One World has dominated the entire government and all the citizens of the world, forcing them into submission with their various drugs to ward off hunger, stave off starvation and hold them in their sway. It was an illustration of greed in its finest, and I was definitely rooting for their ultimate demise in the end. That said, it must be called out that I felt there were a few plot holes in terms of how One World actually managed to subdue generations before Thalia and Basil (namely her grandparents), forcing them into this virtual world in which they live. It felt a bit heavy-handed and forced, and I wish it was something that had been further explored.

In the end, I finished Hungry in a couple of days, but I closed the book feeling rather unsatisfied. Though an interesting premise, I think the execution was lacking in several key areas, and I think that it's a premise that needs to be researched - and conveyed - in a much more believable manner for me to truly become invested in this broken world. I give it a 2.5 out of 5, and I'd recommend it for those who enjoy YA, especially those looking for a different sort of dystopian novel.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. NO FOOD?? By removing that, you're taking away such a visceral experience, something that's integral to being a human and interacting with other humans. What do they do with their time? What do their dates look like? Do they drink? The whole premise has me curious, though I'm discouraged by the insta-love and missing key areas.

  2. No thanks. But it sounds so cool

  3. Oh, I was hoping for so much more from this one. The cover is just says so much. But I have been fooled by plenty of covers. Sorry this one fell short. But I do see the distinction you make between HUNGER and NOURISHMENT. Definitely two different things. And the pleasure like Mary mentions above? Or is that taken care of with the whole virtual thing. But you can't virtually taste. That world sucks! I hope I die in the rebellion!!! Awesome review Melissa!

  4. Thanks for the honest review! I had not heard of this one and when I read the synopsis, it sounded promising, but I think I'll skip it. I am OVER insta-love. It's sad that we have come to expect it in the books we read. That's why I have been gravitating towards more adult reads lately, but that's a discussion for another day. :) BTW, I hope you had a great vacation!

  5. I'm sort of off of dystopians, and this one doesn't sound promising if I were set on picking one up. Sorry you had to trudge through this read. That's a lot of pages for a lackluster story! :/

  6. I've been disappointed too many times in the past by dystopians and insta-love, so I'll definitely be avoiding this one. Thanks for your honest review, Melissa!

  7. To be honest, this one had me scratching my head in confusion when I read the blurb for this, but I think I know where the author was trying to go. I'm a bit burnout with dystopias and especially insta-love but I do know teens who can't get enough so I'll pass the recommendation along to them. Thanks for your honest review as always, Melissa!

  8. This has an interesting and frighteningly realistic concept, but it doesn't seem like the idea was explored very well. I'm over dystopians at the moment, but I admit that this sounded so intriguing. I'm sorry to hear about the flat characters and the insta-love romance. And what's with the names of the characters?
    Great honest review, Melissa!
    I hope you and your husband had a good time on your cruise! :)

  9. It sounds pretty interesting from the summary but your review definitely made me see it from a different point. There are so many insta-love moments in YA genre that even the "grumbling stmach" doesn't even seem that interesting anymore lol Amazing review! Sorry you didn't enjoy it as much


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