Hungry by H.A. Swain Feiwell & friends, 2014. ISBN: 9781250028297 . reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Thalia lives in the future at a time when humanity has messed things up enough to alter the ecosystem sufficiently to kill off most plant and animal life. Her parents helped create Synthamil, an artificial nutrition supplement that eliminates normal hunger. It was in response to a drastic food shortage, but a company, One World, gained control of the market, got some draconian laws passed and now everything is tightly regulated and privileged members of society like Thalia, are living in a materialistic, buy-driven technoworld, ignorant of how difficult survival is for the less fortunate.
She’s uncomfortable about most of the commercialism, particularly when talking with her grandmother about the way life was when people still farmed and raised their own food. When her long dormant stomach starts making hunger noises. She’s upset, but one night when she and her best friend Yaz are at a club, her stomach starts growling so loudly she’s worried everyone can hear it over the music and games being played, so she leaves to wander around the nearby abandoned buildings. When she smells something mysterious, she follows the beguiling scent and comes upon a building with a sign that says FLAV-O-RITE. Intrigued, Thalia opens the door and startles a boy standing by a long table.
Meet Basil, resident of the part of the city where life is a constant struggle and not everyone accepts the laws pushed by One World as necessary. He’s invented a machine that creates food smells. It doesn’t take long for Thalia to be as entranced by them as he is. She’s also pleasantly shocked to discover how easy it is to talk to him, because in her world, everyone is so consumer crazy and addicted to the buzz and flash of technology that she feels odd most of the time. Basil is a whiz with most anything mechanical, but Thalia has her own secrets. Thanks to watching her dad who invented the ubiquitous communication device known as the Gizmo, she’s turned into a very adept hacker and is part of an underground group called the Dynosaurs who use their skills to derail product blitzes from One World.
Their chance meeting not only sparks feelings of attraction, it forces Thalia to begin some serious questioning of everything she has assumed was true. In short order, she’s sent by her parents to a bizarre treatment facility, escapes, finds Basil again and the two of them break out of the inner city where the privileged live and they flee into the unknown outside the city. What they find and how they have to re-examine everything each of them grew up believing, while almost losing each other makes for a really interesting read.
Teens who like technology rich dystopian stories with lots of action, a well designed world and decent plot twists will like this one big time.