I was excited to read this book. I saw it a couple of months ago and saved a photo of it because the cover immediately drew me and added it to my Goodreads ‘Want to Read’ list. However, throughout the novel, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. There were quotes that I'd include that I loved and there were parts I liked and disliked. The ending left me speechless in a way where I wouldn’t know how to start this review but here goes…
"here I was standing in water that was up to my ankles. Maya was out there, knee-deep in the same sea." - page 111
The Art of Starving is a YA novel written by Sam J. Miller in 2017 that follows the life of Matt in his perspective as he writes a set of rules (chapters start in rules) to starve himself. Upon doing so, Matt realizes, the longer he starves himself, the more profound his abilities become. Matt uses it to his advantage on Tariq, his bully to find out why his sister (Maya) ran away from home. Matt knows Tariq was involved; he was the last person Maya was with that night. Matt won’t stop at anything until he finds out and when he does, it’s the last thing he expects…
Quite interesting, huh? I follow Epicreads on Instagram, and they posted this, and I always love the books they share so I had to read it! Months later in the library, because for some odd reason, I couldn’t find it in the bookstores near me, I picked it out and read it that same day.
Firstly, let’s start with the characters. Matt who’s our storyteller often becomes obsessed with his powers and doesn’t eat for long periods of time. I liked how he told the story because it’s vastly different from other gay, teenage boys. Matt's smart and I have to give credits to Sam J. Miller who used descriptive language well! I loved how he (Matt) described a setting or the feeling of hunger. His use of Metaphors, Personification and Similies were used well and not exaggerated. There's chapters where there’d be two lines of description while others received a paragraph (page 164) and that’s what I enjoyed a lot.
"Hunger was a pack of wolves, turning on their own, clawing and tearing at my stomach. Hunger made the world spin." - page 166
I related to Matt in a way, not being anorexic and all but why he starved himself. Others would say it’s to ‘look for attention’ or ‘exaggerating,’ but his reasons were accurate for a teenager. We go through these new emotions that we don’t adjust with well and try to find ways to avoid or remove it instead of facing them and accepting that, that’s who we are. I loved Matt’s character for that.
Onto Tariq who left me curious in the beginning because he wouldn’t talk much. Then all of a sudden, he’s interested in Matt. I don’t think he received much characterization throughout the book. He’s a good character who cared a lot about the things he did, but I wished he worked out in the end and received better closure.
"On a world that could be so hard on a person that her only escape was running away from everything she knew." - page 160
Two characters that you will all fight me on is Bastien and Ott (Tariq’s friends). I don’t know why but I liked the antagonists and wished they were included in more chapters, that would’ve at least put Matt’s powers into more use. One scene I liked was when Tariq invited Matt to Bastien’s party, and Ott called out Tariq. That moment when he used his powers on Ott revealed a different side to him.
I read a few reviews before I wrote this one and had to agree with a few of them. The powers weren’t necessarily that much in the novel because Matt would’ve eventually found out about Maya either through her or Tariq. He would’ve eventually become friends with Tariq, and thus, Ott would’ve explained himself. The abilities could’ve been used more or to a better extent. However, if Sam J. Miller did, then a subplot probably would’ve been removed.
"Try to fight someone else's war, and you will end up one of the casulties. Believe me, I should know." - page 169
The beginning is quite exciting and leaves you on edge and wanting to read more to find out what happened. However, I found it dragging a bit especially when Matt spent time with Tariq. That escalated quickly where they became friends, but I understood Matt only agreed to spend time with Tariq to find out what happened to Maya. One part that I found a bit too farfetched and confusing was the rising tension where Matt controlled the pigs from The Slaughter House where his mother worked. There must’ve been another way to make him end up in the hospital?
"We will be here when your bones join our roots in the earth." - page 180
Well, at least one thing out of it was, we finally find out why Maya left. Yes, that far in the book, Matt’s main goal concludes.
All in all, it was a good book that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to anyone who wants something different from a regular mystery, love story. The plot isn’t everything in this book, but I’d have to give it a rating of three out of five. Find out more about Sam J. Miller and his other works here.
"The human mind is weird like that. It'll do anything, construct any crazy story, rather than accept a truth that breaks the rules of the world as we know it." - page 349