Book Review: The Art of Starving

He’s bent on making the jocks pay for driving his sister away and determined to save his single mother from a dead-end job. But he’s got to be sharp if he wants to succeed, and that means conquering his hunger. Food will only dull his senses, making him soft and disgusting. But hunger? Hunger gives him unconquerable strength and superhuman senses.

Sam J. Miller’s first novel, The Art of Starving, is a gut-wrenching and powerful read about a high school boy clamoring for acceptance—from his wealthy classmates, from the boy he has a crush on and from the sister he fears he’s lost.

As Matt turns to food deprivation in order to gain control over something in his life, Miller paints his descent into the eating disorder in terrifying relief. As Matt’s pain goes unnoticed by most—those who do see it are too lost in their own trials to provide the support he needs—it becomes all too clear how easily we can overlook each other’s suffering.

Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why (and more so the recent Netflix adaptation), The Art of Starving teeters on the edge of romanticizing tragedy. However, Miller’s novel offers as much relief as desperation, and Matt’s journey will feel familiar and hopeful to any reader who’s experienced the precarious scramble for self-acceptance.

This review was originally written for and published on BookPage.

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