Young Adult - Social Issues
220 Pages
Reviewed on 05/12/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite

Starvation by Molly Fennig is a YA novel that addresses realistic issues and presents elaborately developed and compelling characters. Sixteen-year-old Wes McCoy has never been the favorite of the family. His brother, Jason, who is the apple of everyone’s eye, dies in a car accident on his way to the State wrestling championship. Wes’s life gets upended in ways he can’t understand. In his struggle to cope with the tragedy, he turns to food for solace. But food can’t give him the solution to his aching problems and his troubled heart. In fact, he might lose a dear friend forever, and Caila Brennan is a girl whose standards put food out of the equation. As he navigates his painful emotions and learns more about himself and his brother’s tragedy, he will have to make hard choices or see his life winding down an irreversible path.

This is the first book I have read in which an author explores a young character struggling with grief and finding himself plunged into a world where eating disorders become the norm. Themes of depression and suicide are diligently written and in a realistic manner. Molly Fennig has written the young characters intelligently and I enjoyed the way the relationship between Caila and Wes is developed from the moment they first meet each other at the fountain; their text messaging conversations add to the realism of the story and capture an aspect of life that young readers will definitely relate to. The family dynamics at the McCoys and how this affects the young protagonist are also well-written. Starvation is suspenseful, and I found myself mulling over the death of Jason, wondering — like the mother — if he had actually committed suicide. Starvation is emotionally rich, at times disturbing, but it plumbs the psyche of a young protagonist and explores realities that young people experience, especially when faced with a crisis. It is a fast-paced, emotional rollercoaster.

Tiffany Ferrell

Wes Mccoy is a wrestler at his high school, living in his older brother's shadow. Coming from a family of athletes, he struggles while his older brother Jason is ranked at the top of their team, also receiving a scholarship to his dream college. Wes then meets Caila, a beautiful ballerina who looks too fragile for this world. The two become friends and she suggests that he diet with her for a week with only eating fruit. Desperately wanting to go down a weight class, he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees. Losing the weight and moving down a class, Wes sees the diet as a success, but at the same time, he realizes that there is something seriously wrong with Caila. Finding out that she is anorexic, he tries to help the girl that he finds himself falling for, all the while getting sucked into the vicious cycle of an eating disorder himself. What triggers Wes’s downfall is the sudden death of his brother. Wes’s parents are trying everything to keep their last living son with them, but he’s trapped in the obsession and addiction of depriving himself of the food and nutrients that he needs to survive. Will Wes beat anorexia or will anorexia beat him?

I thought Starvation by Molly Fennig was a great and emotional read that not only kept the reader interested but brought to light a very important issue that many people struggle with. So many people think that anorexia and bulimia is an illness and addiction that only women suffer from, which is untrue. So many men suffer in silence and go untreated because of this stereotype. With that said, I am very happy that the main character of this book is a male because it makes it unique. This is the first book I’ve read that centers around a boy who has this illness. Each character is well thought out and you can tell that Molly Fennig has done her research. I look forward to reading more books from this author in the future.

Divine Zape

Starvation by Molly Fennig is a great story that features real issues that teenagers are confronted with, one of the best books I have read on facing a crisis as a teenager. Even if Wes McCoy was not the apple of the family’s eye, he is devastated by the sudden death of his brother, Jason. Jason is an athlete who dies in a car accident on his way to the state high school wrestling championship. The story is carried by the media. But life is upended for sixteen-year-old Wes, who suddenly becomes withdrawn, giving in to food addiction as he struggles to come to terms with the devastating reality of death. Did his brother really die or could it have been murder or suicide? The answers are in this twisty tale that is never lacking in surprises.

This is a cleverly written story that feels real. The young protagonist is a character that instantly wins the sympathy of readers, and I enjoyed the role that Caila plays in the story, engaging Wes on a path that might lead to inner freedom. This is a character-driven story with plot twists that readers won’t see coming and an ending that is equally satisfying. Molly Fennig writes realistic scenes and uses a tragedy to explore a reaction that is common to people who are depressed. The story is psychologically strong and Wes's psyche is brilliantly explored, allowing readers to follow his thoughts, feel his struggles, and root for him in his fight to control his eating disorder. Starvation has excellence in writing that readers look for and a storytelling skill that is exceptional, combining the fine art of plotting with realistic characters to deliver entertainment that hits home. It is loaded with sobering life lessons. This is a sweeping story of loss, tragedy, and addiction; it is also a coming-of-age story with shades of love.

Pikasho Deka

Wes McCoy is a high school sophomore devastated by the death of his older brother Jason, a wrestling prodigy who was set to take the world by storm. Always being overshadowed by his brother, Wes struggles to cope with his unexpected loss, going into a depressive spiral that sees him lashing out at his loved ones. His relationship with his girlfriend Caila -- a ballerina with anorexia and suicidal tendencies -- becomes strained. Moreover, he instigates a fallout with his best friend Collin, a witty teenager with a penchant for video games. As Wes battles with a serious eating disorder, shocking truths about his brother come to light that knocks the wind out of his sails. Starvation by Molly Fennig is an introspective coming-of-age tale that deals with issues of anorexia, loss, and depression.

Molly Fennig's thoughtful exploration of topics such as teenage depression and body dysmorphia is as absorbing as it's informative. I found the characters extremely compelling to read. Wes is a complex character with layers of depth that other teenagers going through the same issues will find easy to relate to. Even the non-POV characters such as Collin and Caila feel well-realized, and they create a fascinating relationship dynamic with Wes. Author Molly Fennig uses a non-linear narrative, and the plot moves deliberately slowly. Some heavy topics are explored in the book, and I found them handled thoughtfully in a sensitive manner. I feel glad that I read Starvation. I would recommend it to readers interested in coming-of-age stories involving topics of loss and recovery.

Lesley Jones

Wes McCoy has grown up in his older brother Jason's shadow. Jason seems to have everything; his parents' admiration, a wrestling scholarship to Stanford, and plenty of adoring friends. But when Jason is killed in a car accident, Wes and his parents must begin their own personal grieving process. However, Wes is not only coping with the loss of his brother but also trying to help his girlfriend Caila with her unhealthy fixation on losing weight. When Wes wakes up in hospital after collapsing at a wrestling tournament, he beings to look back on the events before and after his brother's death. He uncovers some painful truths about himself and how his unhealthy obsession with food gave him a sense of control over his life. Have Wes's life choices been for himself or to gain the respect of others? As Wes begins the long process to rebuild his life and the relationships with his parents and best friend Collin, will he be able to prevent the illness from taking away everything he holds dear? Will Wes not only find the strength to save himself but Caila too before it is too late?

Starvation by Molly Fennig is an extremely hard-hitting account of one young boy's experience with eating disorders and suicide. The entire story is written from the point of view of a teenage boy before and after the death of his brother and how it affected his relationships with others. I found every character's behavior and actions very realistic and the dialogue represented their personalities perfectly. Wes was a deeply sensitive teenager with low self-esteem and a longing to feel accepted. I loved how the chapters alternated from past to present as it really gave an insightful look inside the mind of Wes and how his relationship with food became so unhealthy. I thought the strength of this novel was the relationship development between Wes, his friends, and his family, especially his parents. The scene between Wes and his father and the spider analogy was fantastic and I also thought Wes's reaction to the new house rules and his mother was very powerful. Collin was extremely funny and brought some fantastic humor to the story. The scene between Wes and Jason after the accident was heartbreaking. I also thought the relationship between Caila and Wes was endearing and deeply moving throughout. Starvation by Molly Fennig is such a well-written story and highlights the importance of recognizing the warning signs of eating disorders, depression, and suicide. The story also uncovers the dangers of allowing others' opinions of you to become your version of reality.