Book Review: Hunger by Michael Grant

Hunger by Michael Grant - Header

Hunger is the second novel in the “Gone” series by Michael Grant, following on from the series titling original. The book picks up on the lives of a group of school children who have been cut off from civilisation, turned against each other as the realisation of their plight and the natural power struggle it gives rise to becomes more pronounced and now, starving, they are stalked by a deadly pray.

The book really does pick up from where Gone finished and as a result I actually believe that unless you have read the original there is no way you could even attempt this. I thankfully, have read the first book, but even so, I found this instant reconnection hard initially. I’ve had a 6 month gap between finishing Gone and starting Hunger, not a massive amount of time, but enough to mean I’d forgotten some of the background characters, idiosyncrasies and finer details that made up the world, it’s inhabitants and what had gone before, so to be presented with a character and be instantly expected to remember everything about them, and more importantly why they did, said or acted as they do was annoying and frustrating to say the least. I didn’t want the book to recount everything from before, I wanted it to be independent, to continue the story by going forward but it needed to ease the characters back into my life in a gentler and more compassionate way. It’s too blunt and asking too much as it is.

Brand Logo & Identity - Hunger by Michael Grant

I don’t remember too much about Grant’s writing style from the original. I know I found the book easy to read and easy to get lost within, constantly wanting to get back turning page after page and enjoying chapter after chapter; but this time around I just found it tedious and pandering. Too often it felt like he was trying to write to impress a young audience. That he’d shoe horn in phrases and slang in an attempt to look cool and worse still, over and over he’d drop brand or company names into the story in a way that offered nothing naratively, but instead felt like unnecessary product placement. There are times when it felt virtually like a paid advert and these would cause me to break the connection I had with the book because the text wouldn’t flow and the world wouldn’t seem real.

One of my biggest complaints from the first book returns again as well. The age profile of the characters just doesn’t work. The whole series is twisted around this idea that if you are 15 or older you disappear, that it’s true “youngsters” who are left to fend for themselves, but they don’t act, survive or live like people as young as you are told they are would, or could. There are times when ten-eleven-or-twelve year olds are being portrayed in a way that just cannot happen. You could argue that it’s “do or die” but really, I just can’t buy into it. If you said the characters were fifteen-to-eighteen year olds I could accept it, and that’s how I picture them in my head, but pre-teens playing nurses and injection morphine whilst others run nuclear power stations is just a bit too far fetched.

Children Acting As Adults - Hunger by Michael Grant

Even worse than the confused age/maturity debate is the fact that the story just isn’t very good. I was disappointed in the way Gone finished because I thought it lost a sense of direction and sadly, Hunger picked up that meandering fumble and ran with it. The story just seemed weak and silly in places and shallow and ill conceived in others. The book has lost the depth of natural survival that made the original so engrossing and instead, tries to just tell a wild but ultimately, flawed story that is less about the characters and more about their plight. It also doesn’t help that this book feels just part of a larger series. You can sense that Michael Grant is writing to a much larger word count and while thankfully, he’s not introducing elements to simply ignore them, too often things are left a little light, the grander theme is ignored on the whole and simply hinted at while he attempts to tell an implausible story that lacked the clarity or depth it needed.

There is also the inclusion of an eating disorder for virtually no apparent reason. And even worse, it’s written from the perspective of somebody who, to me, speaks with no experience. It just didn’t feel right in the way it’s portrayed. It lacked the compassion or understanding of the psychology of Bulimia to make it feel real, and when it’s treatment was as misjudged as saying “pull yourself together” before force feeding the girl involved, the book took another step away from me as I lost all faith in the author and therefore, in his ability to control the environment he had created.

Gone Series by Michael Grant

I said in my review of Gone that I wasn’t sure I would bother reading the rest of the series. Having now dipped my toe back into it, I’m glad I did, to a point. I like the characters, they are interesting and fun, if mature beyond their years but I hate the story. I never really got into the book, I never really felt any emotion, empathised with any character or longed to turn over the page. I wanted so much more depth than it gave by I know why, the depth is there, it’s just dragged out over 4 more books.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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