Review: Hungry by H.A. Swain


I love food-related books, so I thought I was going to be blown away by Hungry after reading the premise. But even though the protagonist was likable and the adventures were exciting, the plot is too convoluted and the insta-love was annoying. I’m actually in awe at how unexpected some of the plot twists are (yes, there are multiple!), and I wish this book was more focused.

Title: Hungry
Author: H.A. Swain
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Genre: (Young Adult) Science Fiction / Dystopia / Food


In the future, the world is saved from starvation and war by One World, an organization that created medication (“inocs”) like Synthamil to provide all the nutrients that humans need. In exchange, One World now controls the entire world’s food supply. When seventeen-year-old Thalia Apple, daughter of the head scientist and the technology leader of One World, suddenly starts feeling hunger despite taking inocs, she runs into Basil – a boy from the “other side of town”, so to speak – who’s having the same issue. As they try to discover why certain people are starting to feel hunger and what secrets One World is trying to hide, they find themselves on the ‘wanted’ list and running for their lives.


Thalia Apple is a pretty cool character. She should’ve been born a few decades earlier, since she’s into knitting, wearing cotton clothing (instead of clothing made from Cottonylle grown in the lab), not using her Gizmo (a personal cyber assistant that everyone carries around), and shopping in person (online shopping is the way to go!). She also hacks into the One World system occasionally for fun, and has a best friend who is the epitome of One World’s typical gadget-loving teenager but with more heart and smarts, so we know that she’s all set to take on anything.

That’s all fine and dandy until Thalia meets The Boy. The Boy’s name is Basil, which immediately made me think of food. Google claims that garlic basil crusted pork with apple cream sauce is actually a thing, so looks like Apple and Basil are meant for each other. That is, there’s major insta-love – within less than an hour of meeting each other, Apple falls in love with Basil.

Finding a person to love outside the Pool, without the help of algorithms and avatars, only happens in fiction when two people are so compatible that their desire to be together busts through the hormone barriers meant to save us from ourselves and keep the population in check. They have a word for this kind of thing in the movies. It’s called romance, and until today I thought it was a total crock of crap.

Really, girl? I mean, can’t you focus more on the fact that Basil made an awesome scent generator that produces smells from French fries and chocolate cake and roasted chicken? Instead, we get this mushy stuff:

I try harder to remember how his dark hair curled across his forehead. Was it black or dark brown? I do remember that his eyes lit up when he smiled, but I can’t remember if they were blue or green or maybe hazel. I wish I could see him so I could burn his image into my mind again. I wonder what he’s doing.

The Boy also starts out as a potentially strong and significant character, but throughout the story his presence and strength just diminishes like crazy, and I stop paying attention to him and his opinions. It’s good in that Thalia can take charge and be the heroine, but that could happen without weakening The Boy’s character.

And oh my god, that plot. It was so intense and exciting when I read it, but at the end when I think back about what I’ve read, I totally had a WTF moment. Things just didn’t make sense. A few of the plot twists could have been taken out and the story would’ve still worked, so I think this was just a case of excessive ideas being stuffed into a single story. One good thing is that there’s no cliffhanger! I was really scared at one point because it seemed likely, but that’s one thing that made me happy.


Hungry had potential, but overall, it fell short of my expectations. This dystopian novel just made me hungry for something better. And of course, I HAVE to include a food GIF somewhere!


6 thoughts on “Review: Hungry by H.A. Swain

  1. I’ve heard a lot about this book and may still look into picking it up someday. But, from reading what it’s about and this review, it doesn’t come across as a must read. And not to mention over complicated plots without justification just piss me off. Thanks for the post!

    – Daniel Waltz
    Author of The Water Travelers

    • Let me know what you think if you do read it, Daniel! I know others might not mind the complicated plots as much, so I always like hearing about what works and what doesn’t. 🙂

  2. It kind of annoys me when authors act as though only one person can be the strong leader – e.g., it has to be the Girl or it has to be the Boy. In real life, no one is the strong person all the time – different people step up to the plate at different times, and whoever is the follower at the time still has the important role of support/complementary work, a job I think is really devalued in a lot of fiction, especially YA. All that to say, I don’t think that the way to write “strong, independent female characters” is by making the males weak and flat, but I see it happening that way a lot.

    • Right??! I wish strong female characters can be surrounded by a mix of strong and weak characters and not just weaklings. I read a Buzzfeed article recently about how Peeta is a “damsel in distress” in The Hunger Games, and I get the importance of gender role reversals in stories like this, but at least Peeta is still a strong character (I assume from reading reviews, since I haven’t read the series)… Hungry just has useless weak characters for useless weak characters’ sake. Not cool.

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