HUNGRY GHOST by VICTORIA YING
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
TRIGGER WARNING FOR EATING DISORDERS
Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying is a powerful graphic novel about what it means to be perfect. The perfect daughter, the perfect student, the perfect image of what a high school girl should be. Our main character, Valerie Chu, is known for being all of those things–the perfect daughter, an exceptional student, and most importantly, thin. Her entire life, her mother has controlled her relationship with food, making sure she just “tasted” the food instead of really eating it. Now in high school, Val struggles with an eating disorder, but despite this, all she wants is to please her mother and be as perfect as she can. Meanwhile, her best friend Jordan–who is fat–lives her best life, happy with herself and her body. As Val tries to balance perfectionism with wanting a normal life, she realizes that “thin” doesn’t always mean “happy.”
While Hungry Ghost isn’t “graphic” (pun intended) in its depiction of Val’s eating disorder, it is still a heavy theme within the book, so keep that in mind if you’re wanting to read it. This isn’t a story entirely about struggling with an eating disorder, either. Val learns throughout the course of the story that she doesn’t have to be everything her mother expects her to be. Though there are some bumps in the road to her recovery, both Ying and Val make it a point to tell audiences that you can get better. Refreshingly stark and honest, Hungry Ghost tackles these heavy topics with grace, while the graphic novel format makes it easily accessible to teens who may need a story like this.
Speaking of the art itself, Hungry Ghost is a beautifully illustrated work, done mostly in shades of pastel blue and pink. Val is surrounded by a darker blue shade for most of the book, signifying the shame and sadness she carries around with her, while her friend Jordan is awash in happier pink shades. It’s a lovely dichotomy that really brings the art to life.
Though Hungry Ghost is at times an upsetting read, it is raw and honest and real and something many teens will be able to relate to.
You can pick it up at the Oreana Library today!