I just read Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler (HMH, April), a follow-up to October’s Hunger. In each book, a troubled girl on the brink of killing herself (intentionally or through miscalculated self-injury) is offered a second chance by Death: take on the role of a Horseman of the Apocalypse. Anorexic, over-exercising Lisa becomes the avatar of Famine, and outcast cutter Missy assumes the mantle of War. Their new identities give the teens a sense of purpose, and the power to inflict—or choose not to inflict—tragedy on others inspires Missy and Lisa to confront their personal demons.
There’s an implication in the novels that a “bigger picture” perspective can reverse these extremely complex psychological problems. I doubt that global awareness alone would be enough to change an anorexic’s or self-injurer’s self-destructive patterns, but it’s refreshing to see protagonists dealing with these issues in plots that go beyond a problem novel set-up. Partial proceeds from the books are donated to the National Eating Disorder Association and self-injury prevention organization To Write Love on Her Arms, two causes I wholeheartedly support.
In the meantime, Kessler’s “characters strike back” in an interview with the author by Missy and Lisa. And Death himself chats about life, “little-d death,” and rock ‘n’ roll with other protagonists of YA novels at the “call-in radio show”–style blog Post Mortem.
See Jackie Morse Kessler’s response to The Wall Street Journal‘s “Darkness Too Visible” article here.