review by Jacob Chon, age 15

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

    The Art of Starving is a novel about a young, gay man coming out of the closet.  Although at first it seems like a novel about obesity, it really is a much wider story that encompasses the social pressures of high school, queer sexuality, dysfunctional households, and a life of choices. Matt is an overweight boy that is secretly gay. He is constantly harassed about his suspected sexuality, his weight, and his lack of social skills. However, his life is drastically changed when he realizes that his eating problems are holding him back, and that by not eating he can heighten his senses to a superhuman level. His life is further flipped when he finds out that the star athlete is also gay. Together, they try to explore just what it really means to be a gay man in a high school society.  
    I have a very negative view of this novel. It feels like Matt is forced to play the role of almost all of the oppressed people in today’s society, as he is the literal embodiment of “oppressed.” He is obese, fatherless, gay, communist, liberal, and tries to push his worldview on others. If he were only one or two of those aforementioned features, the novel wouldn’t feel so overloaded; but as is, readers can barely even get a glimpse into his personality other than his being ashamed of being fat, gay, fatherless, and underachieving. In addition, the novel kind of just resolves itself at the end. There is no struggle for acceptance, and it implies that gay people coming out of the closet in a homophobic society face no struggle when coming out. This is far from the truth.  Happy endings rarely happen easily, and most must fight for acceptance. Matt is just accepted as soon as he finally comes out, and the bullying simply stops. His overloaded personality causes another problem: his personality feels fake. The sheer amount of different oppressed groups all stacked onto him makes him feel like a flat, fake character that only exists to be a story of acceptance without actually feeling like a story in which he grows. And finally, the story is incredibly predictable. You feel like you’re reading a book that tells you the ending before you open the first page. I give this book a scathing 2/5, because of the absolutely horrible main character and predictability.

Find this book in our catalog: The Art of Starving

Catalog Number: YA FIC MILLER,S

372 pages

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