Hunger by Melvin Burgess

Hunger by Melvin Burgess

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Melvin Burgess is a masterful young adult writer. Perfectly able to encapsulate what it means to be a teenager in books like Junk and Doing It, and equally adept at creating dystopian science fiction in books such as Bloodtide and Bloodsong, Burgess has long been a favourite author of mine. However, Hunger just didn’t live up to the standard I’ve come to expect from his writing.

The mystery behind what is happening to Beth sets the story up seamlessly. This first quarter of the book is spine-chilling. The strangeness behind Beth not knowing what was causing her aches and pains and hunger, along with the connection to the empty grave really got under my skin and I found myself avoiding reading it at night time because it was too creepy to handle, all alone in my flat!

However, once the supernatural element of plot was revealed it lost its sense of drama and menace for me. The rest of the book felt a little too much like a Scooby-Doo episode. Will the pesky kids manage to defeat the beastly ghoul? Endless chase after chase with the kids managing to escape by a whisker got a little tiresome. The book didn’t feel like it was moving along in terms of the plot, we were just reading encounter after encounter where they had managed to put themselves in vulnerable situations.

Beth, her brother Louis, her best friend Coll and Louis’s best friend Ivan are all at University but throughout the book no mention is given to the fact they may have lectures, assignments, part-time jobs… They just seem to live in a perpetual Sunday where nothing happens in the outside world and they don’t have any responsibilities. This kind of slack characterisation is so out of line with Burgess’s usual writing. If it wasn’t for the repeated (and unnecessary to the story) mentions to the casual sex that they’re all having I would have thought the book was written for 7-10 year olds rather than the young adult audience it is aimed at.

The climax of the story doesn’t get into full swing until the last 60 or so pages. The entire middle section of the book plods along with no massive changes or plot development and then we have a flurry of action right at the end which wraps everything up nicely. Despite this neat ending, my feeling on putting the book down was a sense of relief that it was finished, but also disappointment that the story which had been set up so well had resulted in such a safe, average plot. I hope that this is a one-off for Burgess and his next book returns to the standard I’ve come to expect from him.

This review first appeared on and Goodreads on 8th May 2013.

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