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The Art of Starving

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More Happy Than Not meets Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future in this gritty, contemporary YA debut about a bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder who believes he’s developed super powers via starvation. Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs More Happy Than Not meets Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future in this gritty, contemporary YA debut about a bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder who believes he’s developed super powers via starvation. Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away. Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space. So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe? Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them. A darkly funny, moving story of body image, addiction, friendship, and love, Sam J. Miller’s debut novel will resonate with any reader who’s ever craved the power that comes with self-acceptance.


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More Happy Than Not meets Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future in this gritty, contemporary YA debut about a bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder who believes he’s developed super powers via starvation. Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs More Happy Than Not meets Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future in this gritty, contemporary YA debut about a bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder who believes he’s developed super powers via starvation. Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away. Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space. So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe? Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them. A darkly funny, moving story of body image, addiction, friendship, and love, Sam J. Miller’s debut novel will resonate with any reader who’s ever craved the power that comes with self-acceptance.

30 review for The Art of Starving

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I wanted desperately to tell him that I had very good hearing—because I was starving myself—because it gave me superpowers. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to love this book. I've been pushing myself through for the past ten days. A YA novel about a gay teenage boy with an eating disorder seemed too good and important a premise for me not to like it. But, unfortunately, this book is up to its neck in bizarroland and I could not get into it. There are some great discussions happening in The A I wanted desperately to tell him that I had very good hearing—because I was starving myself—because it gave me superpowers. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to love this book. I've been pushing myself through for the past ten days. A YA novel about a gay teenage boy with an eating disorder seemed too good and important a premise for me not to like it. But, unfortunately, this book is up to its neck in bizarroland and I could not get into it. There are some great discussions happening in The Art of Starving - namely, the relationship between misogyny and homophobia, and the complexities of bullying and how Matt both hates and desires the beautiful, popular boys who make his life hell. Because, as we are repeatedly told, our bodies betray us like that. The main problem was - what I believe to be - the unsuccessful addition of supernatural aspects. Matt starves himself to a point where his senses are heightened, and eventually they offer him supernatural abilities. It isn't clear at first whether the powers are in his head or actually happening, but over the course of the novel certain events are influenced by Matt's powers, suggesting that they must exist outside of his mind. I don't think it quite works, and I'm not really sure why it was added. Male teens with eating disorders are extremely rare in YA, so it wasn't as if the book needed to do something quirky to be different. The effect was many bizarre scenes that seemed dreamy and weird, and yet they were not part of Matt's imagination. I experimented in secret. In the cafeteria at lunch, eyes closed, I slipped off my shoes and pressed my feet to the floor. I saw, through the soles of my feet. I saw the shape of the room, the hallway beyond it, the whole school. I saw the crowds of kids moving past. This all culminates in Chapter 48 where things get seriously nuts. Matt goes to a slaughterhouse (I think), releases and causes the deaths of a bunch of pigs (I think) and then summons another character to him (I think). This kind of "I have no freaking idea what is actually happening" storytelling is just not to my tastes. Also - and yes, this is addressed, though I would argue poorly - for the most part, the story seems to suggest that an eating disorder gives you special powers. A deeply troubling message that is so briefly explained away in a single sentence in the later chapters of the book. I would have liked to see more challenge to this, more of Matt's emotional recovery, and less of the repetitive hunger metaphors. Matt spent so much time telling us how disgusting he was, how his body was the enemy, how hunger was weakness... and very little time learning this is wrong. His recovery is skimmed over and mostly happens off page. It is unfortunate, though somewhat understandable, that no other character is interesting. This is largely due to Matt's introspective narrative that is wholly obsessed with himself and his body. I understand it, though it made it hard to sympathize with the struggles that other characters were evidently going through - such as his sister's running away, his mother's alcoholism, and Tariq's reluctance to come out to his father. Overall, it was a slow, strange read, full of confusing and potentially damaging messages on an important topic. We need to see more books willing to acknowledge the body issues and eating disorders teen boys have, but I would hesitate before recommending this one. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    This is a really interesting novel about a teenage boy with an eating disorder only he thinks that by starving he has super powers and he needs super powers so he can solve the mystery of his sister leaving town and otherwise hold his world together. The writing is great and the protagonist is really compelling. There is also a warm, complicated love story at the heart of this. I would have loved seeing more of that. I mostly wondered about the narrative frame which is the narrator creating a ma This is a really interesting novel about a teenage boy with an eating disorder only he thinks that by starving he has super powers and he needs super powers so he can solve the mystery of his sister leaving town and otherwise hold his world together. The writing is great and the protagonist is really compelling. There is also a warm, complicated love story at the heart of this. I would have loved seeing more of that. I mostly wondered about the narrative frame which is the narrator creating a manual on the art of starving. I’m not sure that frame was necessary and at times it got in the way. Nonetheless this is a really necessary, beautifully rendered story. Highly recommend.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Larry H

    "My sin, my condition, is way worse. I choose not to eat because I am an enormous fat greasy disgusting creature that no one will ever feel attracted to. Now you can't see me, but if you could, you'd probably say what everyone else says. 'What are you talking about?' 'You are so skinny!'" When Matt looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn't see the attractive young man that everyone else sees. He sees a grossly misshapen, grotesque freak, with red hair and bad skin. He sees the kid that his high "My sin, my condition, is way worse. I choose not to eat because I am an enormous fat greasy disgusting creature that no one will ever feel attracted to. Now you can't see me, but if you could, you'd probably say what everyone else says. 'What are you talking about?' 'You are so skinny!'" When Matt looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn't see the attractive young man that everyone else sees. He sees a grossly misshapen, grotesque freak, with red hair and bad skin. He sees the kid that his high school classmates ridicule and abuse, the one they call "geek" or "faggot." So he's taken matters into his own hands, and he subsists most days on the barest number of calories he can consume without people noticing. "My best guess is that a spell has been cast on me, so that everyone else sees me as a scrawny gangly bag full of bones, and I alone see the truth, which is, as I mentioned, that I am an enormous fat greasy disgusting creature." Luckily for Matt, his mother works the overnight shift at the town's slaughterhouse, and she has more than enough issues of her own, including worrying about whether she'll get laid off, to monitor Matt's eating habits. Matt's older, take-no-prisoners sister Maya has disappeared, allegedly to record music with her punk rock band, and she only calls home or emails periodically, without sharing any information on her whereabouts. So there's no one really to watch Matt destroy his body. Matt is convinced that Maya ran away because she was hurt, either emotionally or physically, and he's fairly certain that one of the three bullies in the neighborhood—Ott, Bastian, and Tariq—had something to do with her disappearance. He's determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his sister, and when he discovers the truth, he will enact cruel violence on those responsible to get his revenge. He decides to start with Tariq, as he was the last person to see Maya (at least as far as Matt knows), and while Tariq doesn't stop his friends from their cruelty, he's not as cruel to others himself. What Matt finds is that not eating actually makes him sharper. It helps him hear people's innermost thoughts, smell their fears, know what they're thinking and what their next moves will be. Suddenly he can slow time down, affect gravity, and cause things to happen simply by willing them to be so. He knows it's his hunger that is responsible for these powers, because whenever he is forced or tricked into eating by his body, he feels slower, sluggish, unable to focus on what is around him. But the more Matt sees and hears, the more destruction he is causing to his own body, his own psyche. While his newfound confidence makes him less of a target at times, it makes him more so at other times, so he finds himself doubting whether he'll ever find the truth about what happened to Maya. Yet Matt also discovers that everyone carries secret pain with them, fears and anxieties they keep hidden, and which manifest themselves in different and destructive ways. Can he help those in need of saving, if he is powerless to save himself? "I had spent my whole life listening to stories about what a man was supposed to be. Do. Look like. How a man was supposed to act. It had cost me so much hurt and suffering and courage to come out of the closet, to reject a huge piece of The Masculinity Prison that I never noticed I was still stuck inside it." This is such a powerful, moving, disturbing book, but one I felt suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. Was it the story of a young man's struggle for self-worth, to be loved and accepted, and to find answers, and the horrible eating disorder he tries to keep hidden? Or is it a story that plays with the supernatural, with fantasy, as Matt discovers his newfound abilities resulting from his intense hunger? I felt that The Art of Starving works best when it steered clear of the fantastical elements of the plot. Now, I love a good fantasy novel, but I felt that Matt's "powers" distracted from the more moving and affecting core of the book. I wasn't even sure at times whether the things that Matt was seeing happen were actually happening, or if he was simply imagining these things in a hunger-induced fugue of sorts. That confused me more than a few times. But when the story focused on Matt, his mother, Maya, and the others with whom he was connected—in good and in bad—the book really hit its stride. Sam J. Miller, who in the Acknowledgments section, divulges that he suffered from an eating disorder when he was 15, is a fantastic writer, and he has created some memorable, beautifully moving characters that I won't soon forget. I've always struggled with my weight, and know what it's like to be a teenager struggling with keeping your sexuality hidden while you're hating yourself and what you look like. The Art of Starving really packed a punch for me; I just wish I didn't have to share the pieces of the story which resonated so much with me with elements that didn't quite mesh. But still, this is a book which will touch you with the raw power of its emotions. See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  4. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    "That's one of the more infuriating bugs in the human software. You can have two ideas that are total opposites and believe them both completely." Since this is a book about eating disorders, I'll go ahead and warn that my review on its own could potentially be triggering. I'll add full content warnings for the book itself at the bottom of my review. PLOT ➳➳ A lot of things are going wrong in Matt's life lately: his sister has gone missing, he's bullied relentlessly for being gay, he can't come out "That's one of the more infuriating bugs in the human software. You can have two ideas that are total opposites and believe them both completely." Since this is a book about eating disorders, I'll go ahead and warn that my review on its own could potentially be triggering. I'll add full content warnings for the book itself at the bottom of my review. PLOT ➳➳ A lot of things are going wrong in Matt's life lately: his sister has gone missing, he's bullied relentlessly for being gay, he can't come out to his mom because she's too beaten down from her under-paying job, and worst of all, he's got a crush on the guy he thinks is responsible for his sister running away. When Matt stops eating, though, things start to fall into place: the hungrier he is, the stronger his newfound powers get, until he's suddenly able to stop time, hear things towns away, and smell the history of every student in his school. WHAT I LIKED ➳➳ First of all, it's an own-voices m/m book, and you can tell. The gay rep feels so raw and authentic, which was my favorite aspect of the book. Matt is a hormonal gay teen, and the book shows it, with his inner turmoils about boys he finds attractive, or his shame over the porn and fantasies he enjoys. He struggles with body issues in the ways that only a queer teen can: it's bad enough to compare yourself to others from an outside point of view, but it adds an entirely different struggle to EDs when you're also comparing yourself to what you find attractive. WHAT I DISLIKED ➳➳ The ED superpowers. Wow. I wish so badly that the author had left out this entire story arc and just kept it as a standard contemporary novel. I cringed so hard every time Matt explained how his powers weakened when he ate. I understand that it was probably meant to portray the way ED sufferers sometimes feel "powerful" when they restrict; I get that, I've been there. I'm not coming at this from an uneducated perspective. But oh my god, it was not worth the trigger factor it brought along with it. If it felt triggering to me, someone who has been on the upswing for a few years now and is in a decent mental state of mind, I shudder to think of what this could do to someone who's in the pit of their struggle right now or is on the verge of relapsing. The jumpy nature of the plot itself. Matt's primary concerns switched from one topic to another so frequently and suddenly that I found myself getting a little bit frustrated by the end. If you asked me what this book is about in one sentence, I wouldn't even know what to tell you. Is it an LGBTQ contemporary? Is it a book about eating disorders? Is it a "coming out" story? Is it about Matt finding his missing sister? I think it wouldn't have been a problem if he'd just prioritized one specific story arc over the rest, but I didn't really feel like that was happening. SPOILERS ABOUT THE ROMANCE: (view spoiler)[The breakup. I understand that Tariq didn't feel like he could deal with watching Matt struggle, but I feel like it reinforced this idea that people with eating disorders aren't worthy of being loved. Even once Matt had been in treatment and was doing well mentally, Tariq essentially tells him, "I love you, so we have to stay friends"? It didn't feel realistic, and it also played into what is becoming a trope in YA literature lately, which is that almost every freaking book featuring a queer MC ends in a breakup. Literally, it sees like maybe 15-20% of LGBTQ contemporaries now end in a happy relationship. (hide spoiler)] The love interest is really cute and sweet until suddenly sex comes into question, and he becomes incredibly pushy, which ruined his character for me. I mean, we're talking about a character throwing tantrums when his virgin boyfriend says he isn't ready for sex. Matt even acknowledges, when they do have sex, that he wishes they were doing it because he wanted to, and not just because he felt like he had to or his boyfriend would leave him. It was such a sad and unnecessary turn of events. FINAL VERDICT ➳➳ If you are easily triggered by situations related to eating disorders, I honestly would not recommend this book to you at all; however, if you can handle it, and if the plot interests you, I'd say give it a try. I think there were a handful of issues in the book, some of which included what I listed above, that were just personal problems for me and wouldn't hinder other readers from enjoying The Art of Starving. I did really enjoy Sam J. Miller's writing voice, and I think he is a great guy who maybe just had a few ideas that I felt were misguided, so I can say with complete certainty that I will be picking up his next release and giving his writing another try. Content warnings: anorexia, binge eating, minor sexual harassment (peer pressure), alcoholism, suicidal ideation. Thank you so much to HarperTeen for supplying me with a beautiful finished copy of this book for review! All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Hunger was a pack of wolves, starving and mad, running through my bloodstream, gaunt ribs showing through mangy scabbed fur, fangs bared at every shadow. Hunger pulled me out of bed after midnight, twisting my stomach like wringing out a wet towel, sinking savage talons into my skin and marionetting me: clothes on, socks off, down the hall, out the door, into the night. Here's the thing: the writing here is outstanding. Despite my feelings on the plot, I cannot deny that the writing is something Hunger was a pack of wolves, starving and mad, running through my bloodstream, gaunt ribs showing through mangy scabbed fur, fangs bared at every shadow. Hunger pulled me out of bed after midnight, twisting my stomach like wringing out a wet towel, sinking savage talons into my skin and marionetting me: clothes on, socks off, down the hall, out the door, into the night. Here's the thing: the writing here is outstanding. Despite my feelings on the plot, I cannot deny that the writing is something to be admired. It is so raw and filled with emotion. I cannot stress enough how much I look forward to the next novel written by Sam J. Miller. This is a story about a gay teenage boy with an eating disorder - something so rarely done. It goes into Matt's complicated relationship with his own body and how our bodies can betray us. For Matt, he hurts because his body is attracted to the very boys who make his life a living hell. Hunger rumbled in my belly, and I felt like if I reached out hard enough, I could stretch myself taller than any of the trees. Hunger is funny like that. His sister Maya ran away a week ago, but Matt has no clue why. He knows there is a reason for it and insists the bullies have something to do with it. He's determined to find out. Here's where the plot gets weird: Matt thinks he has superpowers from not eating. Like legit powers. Heightened senses, so much so that he could sniff out anything, read minds, see things that aren't there. That sort of thing... The problem is: is the author glorifying eating disorders? Will young (impressionable) readers think that starving themselves will give them such powers? This could be harmful and the book doesn't really give a full explanation on these "powers" to counteract those feelings. There is never an opposing explanation. I detected things others did not. I saw, heard and smelled things others could not. Somehow, I had become Peter fucking Parker. Somehow, I had - could I even say it? I had powers. I appreciate the exploration of homophobia and Matt's struggle to accept himself. Tariq is wonderful. My issues lie with the message the book is sending out, as well as the inclusion of supernatural elements in what one would assume is a YA contemporary (realistic fiction) story. It felt very out of place and had me wondering "wtf is going on" at one point. I re-read the pages and realized nope....still not getting it. The theme of self-acceptance is an important one. I just don't think this is the book one should read to receive the lesson.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    EDIT: Winner of this year's Andre Norton (Nebula) award! Congrats, Mr. Miller. 3.5ish stars. The blurb is fascinating and strange: "A bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder believes he’s developed super powers via starvation." Who comes up with this stuff? The book itself almost lives up to the promise of the blurb. YA is a very hit-or-miss genre for me, and its appeal largely depends on the main character of each book. Luckily, Matt is a great character. He's frustrating, occasionally irrita EDIT: Winner of this year's Andre Norton (Nebula) award! Congrats, Mr. Miller. 3.5ish stars. The blurb is fascinating and strange: "A bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder believes he’s developed super powers via starvation." Who comes up with this stuff? The book itself almost lives up to the promise of the blurb. YA is a very hit-or-miss genre for me, and its appeal largely depends on the main character of each book. Luckily, Matt is a great character. He's frustrating, occasionally irritating, and, to some extent, surprisingly relatable even if you're not gay, a teenager, or a person with an eating disorder. You have to root for him, even if you think he's being an idiot. It's hard to know how much of the narrative is accurate and how much of it is skewed through the lens of Matt's perspective. As a boy living with mental illness, how much can we trust his version of the story? How much can he trust his own story? I think that's one of the points Miller makes in his writing, that we convince ourselves of truth or falsehood independently of rationality or objectivity. We believe what we want to believe, for better or worse. I feel like the book is too long in the wrong places, and Miller loses grasp of the narrative at times; it devolves into quite a mess by the end. A lot should have been cut out of the middle third of the book to provide more room at the end for resolution. Instead the ending is too abrupt, tidy and quick-fix, but at the same time we're not given as many answers as I would have liked. Maybe, though, that's because Matt doesn't have the answers, or just doesn't want us to know... It's his story after all. Posted in Mr. Philip's Library

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shaun Hutchinson

    There were days when I was depressed when I would lay in bed for 20 hours with my eyes closed, and I began to believe I could see through my eyelids. I didn't know if it was echolocation or X-ray vision, but I believed. There were other days when I could cut myself, and the pain made me feel powerful. It didn't feel like I was bleeding out, but that I was bleeding in. I know that none of those things were true. I know that I couldn't see through my eyelids and that cutting didn't make me powerfu There were days when I was depressed when I would lay in bed for 20 hours with my eyes closed, and I began to believe I could see through my eyelids. I didn't know if it was echolocation or X-ray vision, but I believed. There were other days when I could cut myself, and the pain made me feel powerful. It didn't feel like I was bleeding out, but that I was bleeding in. I know that none of those things were true. I know that I couldn't see through my eyelids and that cutting didn't make me powerful, but I felt it at the time. Maybe Matt's struggle with his eating disorder and body dysmorphia and their connection to his superpowers doesn't make sense to you. But it makes perfect sense to me. I think Sam J. Miller walks a very fine line in The Art of Starving. How to accurately portray the feelings of a boy who is justifying his decision to starve himself and how it makes him feel with the reality of eating disorders and without glorifying them. And I think Miller does it really well. I never had an eating disorder, but along with depression, I've suffered from body dysmorphia my entire life. I know what it's like to look in the mirror and hate what you see staring back. Miller's description of Matt's struggles rang so true to me that they were often too painful to read and I needed to take a break. But the book isn't just breaking down dealing with an ED, it's exploring the connection gay men have with idealized bodies, toxic masculinity, the ways in which we hide addictions in plain sight. One scene in particular really hit me hard. It was when Tariq had (view spoiler)[ confronted Matt about his eating disorder and Matt tried to use sex to deflect. Been there, done that, got my card punched. (hide spoiler)] It hurt so much to watch Matt go through that, but I'm glad Tariq turned out to be an actual good guy. The biggest criticism I see here is from people who think leaving the "superpowers" ambiguous could lead susceptible teens to see this as a manual rather than a warning, but I disagree. I think that while Miller did leave it open as to whether or not the powers existed, he is very clear that they are not connected to Matt starving himself. If Matt is an unreliable narrator and doesn't have powers, then his "powers" are mental manifestations of his problems. If the powers ARE real (and I like to believe they are) then they came from within Matt and he never needed to starve himself to access them, just as is shown in the end when he calls the wind. So I think the criticisms that it's too ambiguous miss the mark. I think Sam J. Miller makes the point about the harms of eating disorders VERY clearly without being didactic or Very Special Lesson about it. Of course, I would have liked to have gotten to know Tariq a little more, and I would have liked seeing a little more into Matt's treatment, but I get why Miller didn't go there. The treatment wasn't the point, it was the admission that he needed it. That was the point. All in all, this is a great addition to the growing world of gay YA lit, and I can't wait to see what Sam J. Miller writes next.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kai

    "Being better isn't a battle that you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war, one that lasts your whole life and the only way to win is to keep on fighting." Note: Seeing the lack of books featuring a male main character, or even a side character, who has an eating disorder, I’m so glad to finally read one that tackles this topic. I’m having a hard time rating this. When I first heard of this book I was more than excited to read it. The summary sounded promising. A gay high school student who is bul "Being better isn't a battle that you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war, one that lasts your whole life and the only way to win is to keep on fighting." Note: Seeing the lack of books featuring a male main character, or even a side character, who has an eating disorder, I’m so glad to finally read one that tackles this topic. I’m having a hard time rating this. When I first heard of this book I was more than excited to read it. The summary sounded promising. A gay high school student who is bullied in school, suffers from an eating disorder and develops super powers? Count me in. But somehow this turned out to be different from what I expected. Let’s start with the main character. Matt feels lost. He is angry. He loves his mom and his sister. He hates school and everybody in it. To be blunt, I didn’t like Matt very much. He is hurting, he misses his sister and a father he’s never know. But he is, all in all, not a very nice person. His thoughts are bitter and dark and most of all completely unjustified. Sometimes that was too much for my taste. The fantasy aspect – or was there a fantasy aspect? – didn’t help the story. If you don’t want to get spoiled, better skip this next paragraph. The fantasy aspect was badly executed. We don’t really know if Matt really has powers. But if he has them, he has them all: highly developed senses. He can hear, smell and feel things that are impossible to sense. He can read minds, he can move objects, create earthquakes, manipulate animals. At first it seems to be a side effect of the self-starving, which really troubled me, since many readers could take this as an encouragement. Later we learn that firstly, the powers are real and so is the fantasy aspect in this book, and secondly, he has always had those powers and they don’t have anything to do with his eating disorder. And apparently his sisters has them, too. This didn’t work for me. Either make these powers and actual big part of the story, make them a hallucination as a side effect of the starvation or scratch them completely. In the end Matt’s super powers don’t have an origin, a purpose or an explanation. Many subplots didn’t make much sense to me. There was Maya, Matt’s sister, who disappeared for some weird(!) reason, but still calls in sometimes, but can’t come home and also can’t say why. Then there is Tariq, who I liked. He wasn’t perfect, but he had depth. I wished for a happy ending. (view spoiler)[In the end Matt and Tariq agreed that they wouldn’t work out and that their relationship was over, which didn’t make sense and really disappointed me. (hide spoiler)] There are many more details that bothered me. For once I would have wished to see more of the healing process Matt goes through. It feels crucial that the reader, who is confronted with all these misleading rules about the Art of Starving, gets a good, satisfactory explanation that makes clear that you should not attempt to starve yourself and/or follow any of the rules at the beginning of every chapter. The attempt was there, but the thought didn’t get through to me. The author had amazing ideas and this story has lots of potential, but I feel like Sam J. Miller got all bundled up in his ideas and everything in this book went all over the place. I had many moments, especially in the beginning, where I was in awe with the writing and felt deeply connected to the main character. I wish there would have been more of this, though. Find more of my books on Instagram

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    (I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) “Hunger makes you better. Smarter. Sharper. I have learned this through practical experimentation.” This was a YA contemporary/magical realism story about a boy who thought his eating disorder gave him super-powers. Matt was quite a quirky character, and I liked how he was openly gay and unashamed about being who he was. I did feel sorry for him though that he had so much stuff going on in his life to deal (I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) “Hunger makes you better. Smarter. Sharper. I have learned this through practical experimentation.” This was a YA contemporary/magical realism story about a boy who thought his eating disorder gave him super-powers. Matt was quite a quirky character, and I liked how he was openly gay and unashamed about being who he was. I did feel sorry for him though that he had so much stuff going on in his life to deal with though. “My best guess is that a spell has been cast on me, so that everyone else sees me as a scrawny gangly bag full of bones, and I alone see the truth, which is, as I mentioned, that I am an enormous fat greasy disgusting creature.” The storyline in this was about Matt’s eating disorder, his sister running away from home, and even a little romance. We also got a bit of a strange storyline about Matt thinking that the hungrier he was, the more his special powers worked, and he was able to smell people and know their secrets. This was a little strange, but it did seem like these weird things were really happening to him rather than him being delusional. I was also surprised by the romance in this story as I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I was glad that someone saw Matt and accepted him for who he was. “I saw, heard, smelled things others could not. Somehow, I had become Peter f*cking Parker.” The ending to this was okay, but this did feel like rather an odd story overall. 6.25 out of 10

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    2.5 stars, mainly because I have absolutely no idea how I felt about this. I didn't enjoy it at all but... it was still a good book? How do I even explain this. The Art of Starving is an incredibly raw book about eating disorders. It incorporates magical realism seamlessly into the plot. The writing style flows well. Emotion drips from the pages. Each character is developed and intriguing. And yet... there's something missing here. Part of this must be the haphazard plot, with the protagonist ch 2.5 stars, mainly because I have absolutely no idea how I felt about this. I didn't enjoy it at all but... it was still a good book? How do I even explain this. The Art of Starving is an incredibly raw book about eating disorders. It incorporates magical realism seamlessly into the plot. The writing style flows well. Emotion drips from the pages. Each character is developed and intriguing. And yet... there's something missing here. Part of this must be the haphazard plot, with the protagonist changing goals and tactics on the fly. Part of this might just be the sheer oddness of the book. Whatever the reason, I felt disconnected from this story. SOME MORE SPECIFIC NOTES The romantic storyline is somewhat cute. The two of them have good dialogue and relationship buildup. I had one major, major issue– at one point, one of the boys tried to pressure the other into sex. It's kind of addressed, but it's glossed over more than I was comfortable with. Also, a personal complaint: the body horror here went too far. I don't want to read about bleeding nails and pigs being skinned from the inside out. Don't pretend you do, either. A PERSONAL NOTE FOR DISCUSSION I really like the trend of stories where protagonists get their happy endings but break up with the love interest. However, I've noticed that this almost exclusively happens in lgbt novels. This is actually the second book like this that I read this week (the other one being Little Wrecks). I can list far too many examples: Gallery of Unfinished Girls, If You Could Be Mine, Huntress, Tricks, and even Openly Straight. It fits into the “gay-people-don't-get-happy-endings“ trope far more than I want it to. I just feel like there's so little happy lgbt romance that sad lgbt romance isn't what the genre needs right now. This is by no means a complaint about either The Art of Starving, Little Wrecks, or any of the other books on this list; they are all books I enjoyed. Gallery of Unfinished Girls especially is one of the best books I read this year (add it to your tbr!!). It just feels like a trope at this point. Feel free to comment opinions, I'd love to discuss with anyone as long as they're polite!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Maria (Big City Bookworm)

    Actual Rating: 3.5 stars. -- Initial post reading thoughts: This is another one of those stories that I just need to think about a little longer before I can write any kind of decent review... This was definitely a strange one and there were a few things I liked and a few things I didn't. -- What I Liked The subject matter. My favourite type of contemporary novels are the ones that deal with more mature and serious themes. The Art Of Starving deals with the topic of eating disorders. What I liked abou Actual Rating: 3.5 stars. -- Initial post reading thoughts: This is another one of those stories that I just need to think about a little longer before I can write any kind of decent review... This was definitely a strange one and there were a few things I liked and a few things I didn't. -- What I Liked The subject matter. My favourite type of contemporary novels are the ones that deal with more mature and serious themes. The Art Of Starving deals with the topic of eating disorders. What I liked about this was that it dealt with the eating disorder of a young teenaged boy. Typically when eating disorders are discussed, especially in young adult novels, it is almost always about a teenaged girl. We have to remember that not only young girls suffer from eating disorders and I’m glad that I found a book that young boys may be able to relate to. On top of this, The Art Of Starving also discusses alcoholism as well as other social issues. I’m glad that Sam J. Miller was able to bring forth these issues in a young adult novel. -- What I Didn’t Like The strangeness of it all? While this novel dealt with some pretty serious content, it also managed to mix that in with a kind of magical realism? I’m not really sure if I’m using the right words to describe this, but the story got really strange. I understand that this was possibly the main character hallucinating due to his illness, but it just got a little too weird for me. I usually like all things strange and unusual, but I just couldn’t get into this aspect of the story in this specific setting. -- I don’t really know what else to say about this one other than that it was just a very neutral read for me. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it. Nothing really stood out, it was just an average story for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    3.5 stars Funny, intelligent & so, so important. Matt is not a likable MC; that's not the point. He's hungry for validation; for love: for answers; for self-acceptance. And it's an uncomfortable ride to get there. My favorite part is how Tariq broke up with Matt not because he has his own difficult journey of coming out in his own time, but because he cannot & will not stand around & witness Matt's self-sabotage. Even after the beginning of Matt's treatment, there is nothing but frie 3.5 stars Funny, intelligent & so, so important. Matt is not a likable MC; that's not the point. He's hungry for validation; for love: for answers; for self-acceptance. And it's an uncomfortable ride to get there. My favorite part is how Tariq broke up with Matt not because he has his own difficult journey of coming out in his own time, but because he cannot & will not stand around & witness Matt's self-sabotage. Even after the beginning of Matt's treatment, there is nothing but friendship between them. It's clear that there are boundaries, that love is never the cure for mental illness & I am glad that is acknowledged here. (No sappy ending here folks.) Matt's pain of feeling too much for everyone around him was, for lack of a better word, extremely painful to read at times. He worries for his mother, (who works at the local slaughterhouse & is very close to losing her job) because her sobriety is falling apart. He misses his older sister, Maya, who has run away from home & Matt is determined that someone caused her to do this, so naturally revenge is the only option. But what happens when that so-called enemy turns out to be Tariq? Matt also misses his absentee father & just wants to learn more about him, to connect somehow. I'll admit I was a bit hesitant to read this because some ED books give WAAAAY too much, to the point where it borders on dangerous. I would probably put STARVING somewhere in the middle- there's a calorie counter, as well as multiple remarks of feeling fat/ugly, but it's not as graphically descriptive as some of its counterparts. There's also the idea that Matt's "superpowers" & in this essence it's definitely similar to A.S. King's novels. I like that it makes you wonder: is it really superpowers or just survival tactics of an untreated mental illness? The magical realism aspect is well-done, specifically two scenes regarding pigs from the slaughterhouse. I personally didn't find that this romanticized MI; nothing gets better for Matt until he starts to get help. While I enjoyed this book, I felt it suffered too much from "telling" & most of the time Matt's brain was like wildfire, spreading too rapidly, making for abrupt scene changes. There were several instances when the dialogue felt too simplistic, especially for a novel with such crucial themes. The ending was alright, but I would have liked to see more of Matt's & Maya's relationship. Overall a good debut & I'm looking forward to reading more of Miller's work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jay G

    Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer... Matt's life has been getting increasingly harder. His older sister Maya has run away from home, his mother might lose her job, he's constantly being bullied for being gay and has a crush on Tariq, the boy who might be responsible for Maya's disappearance. To top it all off, Matt is quickly developing an eating disorder. As Matt continues to stop eating, he awakens supernatural abilities Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer... Matt's life has been getting increasingly harder. His older sister Maya has run away from home, his mother might lose her job, he's constantly being bullied for being gay and has a crush on Tariq, the boy who might be responsible for Maya's disappearance. To top it all off, Matt is quickly developing an eating disorder. As Matt continues to stop eating, he awakens supernatural abilities in himself that he uses to get revenge on the boys responsible for hurting Maya. This book is an own voices m/m book focusing around a teenage boys eating disorder. It's a complicated story about Matt and his relationship with food and his own body image and self-worth. I loved the love interest, who I won't name due to spoilers. But I was rooting for them from the very beginning and was so happy when I turned out to be correct. I really liked the love interest for the most part, except when they would become angry when Matt wasn't sure he wanted to have sex with them which caused them to become angry with Matt. The writing of this book is so well done. It gives MAJOR 'We are the ants' by Shaun David Hutchinson vibes, which I absolutely loved as well. The writing is so raw and filled with emotions from this author. One thing I do wish there was more of would be Matt's recovery journey, I felt that it was glossed over a bit too much and I would have loved to know more about. One thing that should be mentioned is that the book implies that an eating disorder can cause supernatural abilities in an individual, almost glorifying the concept. Although I realise this is a work of fiction, it should be noted that this could be harmful for some individuals and if this is the case for you, go into the book with caution.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cale Dietrich

    This is one of my favourites of this year. It’s such a powerful, moving story, one that is beautifully written and is incredibly engrossing. This book was all I could think about when I was reading it, and I still think about the characters often. I really think this is a must read for fans of gay YA.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Art of Starving is the debut novel from prolific short story writer Sam J. Miller and I've been looking forward to reading this since I found out he was publishing a novel. I absolutely love Miller's short fiction, especially Calved, one of my favorite stories of all time. In The Art of Starving, we get a gritty first-person narrative of a young gay teenager's struggle with an eating disorder(that he believes he doesn't have). This is going to be a highly polarizing book for many people and The Art of Starving is the debut novel from prolific short story writer Sam J. Miller and I've been looking forward to reading this since I found out he was publishing a novel. I absolutely love Miller's short fiction, especially Calved, one of my favorite stories of all time. In The Art of Starving, we get a gritty first-person narrative of a young gay teenager's struggle with an eating disorder(that he believes he doesn't have). This is going to be a highly polarizing book for many people and hopefully, I can explain why I think that way. The first thing that jumps out at you while reading this book is if starving yourself and getting super-heightened senses from not eating is really a good way to represent eating disorders to a young adult audience? A lot of kids fantasize about having magical powers and if anorexia gives our main character powers, is this not making it more tempting for teenagers to think positively about eating disorders? These are the questions that I had to grapple with the entire time while reading this book. In the end, I think this book has really clarified my views on the #OwnVoices debate. The point of the book is to show that "bad things will happen to you, some of it isn't your fault, but other things will be your fault. Being Better is being able to tell the difference,"pg 343. This book is meant to be a difficult read. It is meant to have a viewpoint of a young man with an unbalanced viewpoint on his eating disorder, because real kids out there are having the same thoughts about themselves. Real kids think that their control over their eating makes them special, like they have powers, and Miller is saying, "Hey, we thought this way before, and we've screwed up. Let's take responsibility for the destructive thoughts we have about ourselves and get better." I do think there will be some readers that will find this book problematic, but Miller is giving us an honest portrayal of an eating disorder from the viewpoint of a gay man going through it, and in the midst of addiction, no one thinks logically, just like Matt. Matt, our narrative eye, is constantly looking for validation from others. He thinks that his life is getting better when he meets his boyfriend Tariq, but in reality, he is still struggling with his addiction and putting all of his own happiness unto someone else. This is as much a story about a young man coming to grips with his own self-approval than anything else. When he finally comes to have a shred of love for himself, he realizes that love is the true form of where his powers come from. Not only does Matt come to this realization but his mother and sister, dealing with their own addictive personalities, see Matt getting better, and decide to make the choice to change their alcoholism and destructive behavior. I liked this book, it really made me think about a lot of the conversations and debates about young adult fiction. Sam J. Miller is an excellent writer, that I will continue to read. I did think that the "turn around" portion at the end of the book was really rushed. I would have liked to have seen at least a little more of his recovery. There was an instance of ridiculousness towards the end of the book with Matt's ultimate use of his powers but it didn't bother me too much. I thought Matt's relationship with Tariq at the end really worked for me. From a plot perspective, it is a very basic story, but I think that the writing made me think outside the story to other conversations about addiction and writing controversies. 4/5 17/25 Possible Score 3 - Plot 3 - Characters 3 - Setting/World Building 4 - Writing Style 4 - Heart & Mind Aspect

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    This story of a teen with an eating disorder who believes the disorder gives him superpowers that will help him find out why his older sister Maya ran off was well-written and disturbing. -It felt strange and upsetting as Matt the main character described his many rationalizations for not eating. Male eating disorders definitely do not have the profile of female eating disorders, so it was really interesting to read about Matt's feelings. -At the same time, Matt experiences his first love, which h This story of a teen with an eating disorder who believes the disorder gives him superpowers that will help him find out why his older sister Maya ran off was well-written and disturbing. -It felt strange and upsetting as Matt the main character described his many rationalizations for not eating. Male eating disorders definitely do not have the profile of female eating disorders, so it was really interesting to read about Matt's feelings. -At the same time, Matt experiences his first love, which had its sweet moments. -Matt, his mother and his sister Maya's relationship was great. Their conversation near the end of the book had me tearing up and smiling at the same time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is a tough, but compelling, read about a gay boy's struggle with an eating disorder which leads him to believe he has super powers. Raw and real, the look inside Matt's brain is scary accurate for what it is that a mental illness can tell you -- and lead you to believe. I've read a number of reviews suggesting this could be damaging, but there's no where in here that the message is that Matt LIKES having superpowers. It, in fact, is ruining his life over and over. And the big takeaway at th This is a tough, but compelling, read about a gay boy's struggle with an eating disorder which leads him to believe he has super powers. Raw and real, the look inside Matt's brain is scary accurate for what it is that a mental illness can tell you -- and lead you to believe. I've read a number of reviews suggesting this could be damaging, but there's no where in here that the message is that Matt LIKES having superpowers. It, in fact, is ruining his life over and over. And the big takeaway at the end is that nothing is, nor will ever be, perfect and solved. That every day is a battle with the internal demons. That is the reality of having a mental illness. I'd pass this along to fans of Shaun David Hutchinson in a heartbeat.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Ropp

    Sam's debut novel is absolutely haunting. Matt, an angry, sarcastic gay teen with an antagonistic relationship with his body, tries desperately to find out why his sister ran away from home. Filled with churning anxiety, hunger pains, angry love, and a newfound view of the space time continuum, this novel is a delight.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kuzu

    Listen... I loved this. I don't think it's perfect, but I loved it. I know that a lot of people are very concerned about the idea of an eating disorder giving the character special powers, and I can definitely see how this could be harmful, depending on where someone is in the recovery/control process. But to me, that's what it FELT like. That really was what it felt like and that's the feeling that I still reach for sometimes and this book cut me really deep. As soon as I finished it I felt lik Listen... I loved this. I don't think it's perfect, but I loved it. I know that a lot of people are very concerned about the idea of an eating disorder giving the character special powers, and I can definitely see how this could be harmful, depending on where someone is in the recovery/control process. But to me, that's what it FELT like. That really was what it felt like and that's the feeling that I still reach for sometimes and this book cut me really deep. As soon as I finished it I felt like I had to go eat something for the past versions of me who wouldn't have. I think it's a better book for people who are more secure in their recovery than for people who are in the middle of an active, urgent battle. I wouldn't give this to myself from three years ago or myself from ten years ago. But I'm very glad that the self I have now got to read it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Laurey

    Interesting story about a gay teenager who thinks he develops superpowers through an eating disorder. I liked how progressive this book was in it's portrayal of a gay protagonist, with his sexuality not being the crux of the story. The self loathing started to wear on me towards the end. However, the ending completely redeemed it for me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    omg, this gave me mad we are the ants vibes. RTC. 4.5/5 stars

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra {semi-hiatus}

    ”In the hospital, and at the rehab center, I used to imagine Better was a place you could get to. A moment when I would look around and see that Everything Was Fine. But that’s not how this works. Being better isn’t a battle you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war one that lasts your whole life, and the only way to win is to keep on fighting.” Actual rating: 2.5 This entire review is confusing to write. I enjoyed this book; in a sick way at points, and at others, the way you enjoy a good story. ”In the hospital, and at the rehab center, I used to imagine Better was a place you could get to. A moment when I would look around and see that Everything Was Fine. But that’s not how this works. Being better isn’t a battle you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war one that lasts your whole life, and the only way to win is to keep on fighting.” Actual rating: 2.5 This entire review is confusing to write. I enjoyed this book; in a sick way at points, and at others, the way you enjoy a good story. While it was interesting, I’m still not sure how I feel about it as a whole. Because, holy crap, this book was weird. Every book is written to be special and unique, I know. But this book was Different. Matt, our lovely spitfire MC, is convinced that by starving himself, he’s enabling his body to manifest and sustain superpowers. While this sounds like it’s going to be some sort of teenage thriller, it’s not. Matt’s mentality is more that of a misguided religious follower. There are points in this book that you feel you’re going to be emotionally scarred by the way Matt views himself, (because while the blurb may confuse you on this point,) the book and characters acknowledge that superpowers or not, Matt has an eating disorder and it’s heartbreaking to watch him stumble through his battle with himself. Especially since he doesn’t understand that what he’s going through is an illness, and not some sort of monk chi crap. The writing is solid, and the story (while confusing and downright strange at times), is engaging. The characters feel real and are free of the shiny romanticization YA is known for; especially Matt, Tariq, and Matt’s mom (I loved getting to read all three). If this title peaks your interest, I would give it a shot. This book handles a gay teenage boy with an eating disorder, and while I’m none of those things, it’s important to have more stories like this that provide a more diverse view of eating disorders than ‘teenage-girl-who-hates-herself.’ (Those stories are important as well; it’s just nice to read something different.) Overall, a worthwhile read, but get ready to ask yourself ‘what the literal heck’ quite a few times. :)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This was a very interesting read. On the surface it follows Matt, a sixteen-year-old boy with an eating disorder, family issues, and bullying because of his sexuality (as well as a couple of other things). First of all, AMAZING title: "The Art of Starving." It drew me in immediately, combining two words that are seemingly opposites. It perfectly encompasses the mood of the novel, both romantic and bitter, party and brutality. Moving on from that, I found the main character Matt an especially int This was a very interesting read. On the surface it follows Matt, a sixteen-year-old boy with an eating disorder, family issues, and bullying because of his sexuality (as well as a couple of other things). First of all, AMAZING title: "The Art of Starving." It drew me in immediately, combining two words that are seemingly opposites. It perfectly encompasses the mood of the novel, both romantic and bitter, party and brutality. Moving on from that, I found the main character Matt an especially intriguing, because of his conflicting character traits. Initially he reminded me a bit of Holden Caulfield in his *almost* hypocritical statements. That comparison was quickly discouraged as the novel went on though, and Matt became his own literary being that can stand alone. SPOILERS AHEAD I am always in favor of positive representation in novels, so I was very happy when Matt and Tariq had a pretty healthy relationship (when they were actually together, that is). I also really valued Miller's choice to have Tariq break up with Matt because he couldn't see Matt destroy himself. Of course there was the initial pain and anger around it, but I really really appreciated how at the end they were able to have a mutually respectful relationship after, even just as friends. The main part of the book I wanted to discuss was the magic in this novel. Initially I thought that it was a change in perception from Matt starving himself, but then it turned into actual magical abilities at a certain point, and that was when I perked up, confused and interested. This novel is set in a contemporary environment, so why the magic? ESPECIALLY at the end, when Matt was raising a pig army against the people in his town. At first I raised my eyebrows at it all, because on the surface it seemed like a cheap escalation of his abilities just for an epic climax. It didn't seem to fit at all. But I paused my reading and reflected on how magic had been used throughout the novel up until this point (around page 316), and I finally understood that there's symbolism there. For Matt, his powers always appeared to have come when he starved himself. The more hungry he was, the sharper his world was. The more he could feel, touch, and experience. When he goes to the slaughterhouse and commands all these pigs with his powers, he is also at his most starved. Starved of relationships (romantic, familial, and friend), food, and sense of self. But then after all that, when he goes into recovery, he still has some power. At the beginning of the novel, it took a huge amount of commitment and work for Matt to KEEP himself from eating. At the end, it took that amount of work to GET himself to eat. His power comes from his devotion to himself, an element to the story I did not see coming but was so excited when I figured that out. It gave so much more dimension to the novel, knowing that things did not have explicit meanings. As a surface story I would give it 3 stars. Maybe 3.5. Like many other books, namely school-assigned or classics, often the story isn't the most propelling. But the characters and the hidden depths of symbolism make the story an amazing puzzle to fit together.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Right. Up. My. Alley.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    I had different reactions to this book depending on where I was in it. For a while, in the middle, I was frustrated at the main character. Not necessarily at the author, but the main character was being such a clueless judgemental asshole that I found it hard to spend time with him, fictionally. I always felt like the author knew that, and was trying to dig deep into something to portray it, but while it was effective, it was also unpleasant. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to I had different reactions to this book depending on where I was in it. For a while, in the middle, I was frustrated at the main character. Not necessarily at the author, but the main character was being such a clueless judgemental asshole that I found it hard to spend time with him, fictionally. I always felt like the author knew that, and was trying to dig deep into something to portray it, but while it was effective, it was also unpleasant. Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  26. 4 out of 5

    I.

    Realistic and emotional and funny, The Art of Starving is an essential read for everyone. I loved it, you might love it, I don't know. It'll open your mind up and make you a better person, at least. Please read it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    - ̗̀ jess ̖́-

    The Art of Starving is the first book that I have read about a boy with an eating disorder, which was what intrigued me about it at first. Matt, who is gay and anorexic, reflects the prevalence of eating disorders in the gay community, which was something that was really great to bring attention to I think what turned me off about this book a lot was the writing; I wasn't expecting magical realism to be so prevalent in this book. Matt seemed so far removed from reality that I couldn't really con The Art of Starving is the first book that I have read about a boy with an eating disorder, which was what intrigued me about it at first. Matt, who is gay and anorexic, reflects the prevalence of eating disorders in the gay community, which was something that was really great to bring attention to I think what turned me off about this book a lot was the writing; I wasn't expecting magical realism to be so prevalent in this book. Matt seemed so far removed from reality that I couldn't really connect with him throughout the book. I do think he had a very distinct voice - whimsical and disconnected, which really added to the magical realism later on in the book. The problem I have with this book, as well as a lot of magical realism, is that I was so confused about what was going on that I couldn't get into the book. Matt becomes convinced he has special powers when he doesn't eat, and I couldn't tell if they were real or just delusions. Another thing I wasn't too keen on was that everything wrapped up so quickly and weirdly, and Matt's recovery was brushed over.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ilyse Kramer

    Update: My favorite thing about this book is what it says about boundaries in relationships. Tariq breaks up with Matt not because of his fears about being out, but because he can't bear to go down the road of bearing witness to Matt's anorexic self-destruction. I really love their final scene where Tariq picks Matt up from therapy. It makes it clear that Tariq still cares about him, but has boundaries, they are still friends but their intimacy can go no further. And Matt reflects on how he can't Update: My favorite thing about this book is what it says about boundaries in relationships. Tariq breaks up with Matt not because of his fears about being out, but because he can't bear to go down the road of bearing witness to Matt's anorexic self-destruction. I really love their final scene where Tariq picks Matt up from therapy. It makes it clear that Tariq still cares about him, but has boundaries, they are still friends but their intimacy can go no further. And Matt reflects on how he can't make something true simply because he wants it to be, and that Tariq is dealing with fears and issues of his own that due to boundaries he doesn't have access to. Very bittersweet, very powerful. Update update I wish "Far from Home" had this component to its ending (and in my review for the book, I wrote out the epilogue that I imagine). Meaning that for Pari and Rachel's relationship to be built on a successful foundation, they ideally should have hit pause until Rachel was in a sustainable recovery. -------------- I agree with a lot of the mixed reviews on this. 1. We need more diverse eating disorder stories that challenge the image that's prevailed from 'Best Little Girl in the World' to 'To the Bone' ie. privileged skinny white girls. So a gay male teen in a rural-ish working class community in upstate NY makes for a meaningful change. I also appreciate the author's awareness and conscious effort to challenge this false stereotype. He had a restrictive ED when he was 15, and never received a diagnosis based on his gender and the belief that "boys don't have eating disorders." 2. Triggers here for people with and/or at risk of EDs are kind of mixed, we get Matt's daily calorie counts, the poetic Francesca Lia Block "black spiders clouded my vision" metaphors, and because the title comes from Matt's take on "The Art of War" a lot of anorexic style mantras (citations unnecessary). However, there is, perhaps because the narrative is entrenched in his dysmorphic body image, only one description of his emaciated body, right before he has sex with Tariq. 3. I liked Tariq a lot, he was very fully realized and likable. His strengths and weaknesses were very human. Related, I thought the Jack Kerouac "One the Road" worship was really spot on for teenage boys. Matt's sister Maya, "of course you love that book, it's about male privilege." 4. Another reviewer pointed out how the supernatural elements are confusing. It's unclear whether Matt's superpowers are real or imaginary, whether it's anorexic delusion, whether restriction really does give him powers (least likely based on the narrative, and the biggest problematic concern for people with EDs), or whether as the final coda suggests he had those powers all along unrelated to his illness. Final thoughts, how would I rate this among other YA ED novels? Among other queer YA novels? 1. YA ED Novels: (maybe closest parallel is Pointe, which is different because of the returned kidnapping Donovan plot, but features a black female ballerina ED sufferer so fits the genre of ED novels that challenge BLG mold)I like "Pointe" better, but that could be because I love dance stories, love the friendships Theo has with Sarabeth and Phil, and her rivalry/friendship with Ruthie (especially the "what's the worst thing you've ever done" scene, will write more about this in my review of the novel TBD), and how the author writes Theo's triple consciousness. And maybe because I'm a woman, Pointe just speaks to me more. 2. Queer YA with MM romance (using MM is kind of a false designation since it's for slash fic, and this novel obviously is not) I would rate this very highly for the awkward and euphoric qualities of first relationships, the realism and limits on the couple navigating Tariq's fears of being out (without vilifying him for having those very real fears), and the bullying Matt experiences.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    If you know me, you know I stray away from books featuring mental illness. I chose to dive straight into The Art of Starving and was NOT disappointed. Matt is hungry. Hungry for power. Hungry for acceptance and love. Hungry for food because he is starving himself. And through this hunger, Matt feels that he has developed superpowers. The power to hear more clearly, the power to pick up on unnoticeable scents, the power to read minds. If you've read about eating disorders, you may have noticed tha If you know me, you know I stray away from books featuring mental illness. I chose to dive straight into The Art of Starving and was NOT disappointed. Matt is hungry. Hungry for power. Hungry for acceptance and love. Hungry for food because he is starving himself. And through this hunger, Matt feels that he has developed superpowers. The power to hear more clearly, the power to pick up on unnoticeable scents, the power to read minds. If you've read about eating disorders, you may have noticed that people with EDs claim to experience heightened senses. So there is an air of truth to Matt's experience. Sam Miller does an excellent job of pairing Matt's abilities alongside the experiences he is having. Readers are told from the beginning that Matt has a history of mental illness, and he's supposed to seek help (he doesn't). Readers also get closure and answers at the end of the book. Matt is hurting. He's frequently unable to control his emotions. He's got some serious shit going on at home and school, within himself and within his social construct. Anorexia is Matt's way of giving himself power. Within The Art of Starving is also a tender love story between Matt and another character, which includes a sex scene that gives us a bit of reality. Friendship becomes a key takeaway. On top of Sam's beautiful and engaging writing, we get diverse and rich characters that feel like you could reach through the pages and touch them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Max

    Raw and excellent.

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