Cover Image: Hungry Ghost

Hungry Ghost

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Member Reviews

I just realized I never reviewed this! Which is a shame because I really liked it.

Hungry Ghost covers a lot of difficult topics like grief and fatphobia, with the primary focus being eating disorders. Since she was little, Valerie's mother has been obsessed with her daughter's weight. "Taste but don't swallow," was a common refrain. This focus on skinniness and hatred of overweight persons shaped Valerie growing up, leading her to develop an eating disorder. It even affects her friendships and perception of what the world wants from her.

This is one of those books that made me want to jump inside and comfort her. She just needed one person telling her it would be okay.

The color palate and art direction were beautiful. I loved the style and the illustrations, the artist did an amazing job.

Perhaps the only thing I didn't like here was how things resolved with the mother at the end.

Despite my disagreeing with that particulate aspect, HUNGRY GHOST is still a five star read for me. This graphic novel accomplished so much in a beautiful format that I couldn't help but love it.

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Beautiful illustrations and an important message. I appreciated how this book highlighted how a parent can cause an eating disorder. I hope some future parents read this a correct their behavior.

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Valerie Chu spends all her time and energy on being the perfect daughter. She's quiet, studies hard, and most importantly, she stays as thin as possible. Binging and purging is her greatest secret, and not even her closest friends know about her eating disorder. Of course, this isn't a long-term option and Valerie comes face to face with her darkest self as she reexamines what is important and how to treat her body despite the toxic ways she interacts with her family. 

Author and artist Victoria Ying takes on an extremely difficult subject with emotional intelligence and great care. For readers recovering from an eating disorder Hungry Ghosts may be triggering. 

Hungry Ghosts is now available from First Second Press.

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I have been avoiding reading this graphic novel for most of the year because I knew it would be a very emotionally heavy book for me. I was right, but this story, for all of its emotional rawness, is very realistic and empathetic. Especially in the the ways that Val finally asks for help at the end of the novel, I think this book offers a realistic roadmap for ed recovery. For some readers, this book may be fairly triggering, but it is also therapeutic and tender.
I sobbed quite a bit finishing this book, a sign of a strong graphic novel.

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There are quite a few trigger warnings, depression, eating disorder, fat shaming, grief. But these are all very important topics and often a graphic novel can do an amazing job of bringing the topics to an audience without the same heaviness that a novel can bring.
The story was moving and so sad, drawing me immediately into Valerie's struggling with an eating disorder. I was so evident how easily the disorder took over her entire life and the fixation was overwhelming. I have struggled with my weight and have always tried to figure out how to have a healthy relationships.
The dynamic of Valerie's relationship with her mother was also so hard to read. The toxic behavior was awful and it was amazing to see Valerie's character grow and create the boundaries she needed to protect herself.
This is a graphic novel that needs to be on the shelves of every high school.

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to the free advanced digital copy of this book.

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I read Hungry Ghost in one sitting, and I feel like it’s a book that is going to stay with me a long time. Discussing eating disorders is never a comfortable topic, but Victoria Ying handles it with such care and grace while not shying away from the truth. The art in the book was beautiful and really pulled me into the story. This is the type of book I hope young people will read, despite the heavy subject, because it’s a reality for so many people. And the more we try to understand other people’s lived experiences, the more empathy and love we can share with the world. I also really appreciated the list of resources at the back of the book, and thought the books suggested for further reading were fantastic options from diverse voices.

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For sure I can not relate to the story because I didn't have Eating Disorder. My family also didn't a type to push me into certain type of woman. So I can't comment much about the reality in this story. But for some degree, I know there are people like Val's mom who think a girl must thin, if you're thin it means you're pretty and whole scene when her big family comment about her body. I hate her mother, I can't relate that it is her way of loving. I didn't like how people just let it go because Val have ED and mental issue. It could be a big problem but in this book it come of pretty easy to solve the problem. That's what I don't like. I love how the writer bring this issue that will always happening. The writer show us much about people with ED so I kind of understand their point of view.

I also love the friendship here, not the toxic one but the happy and supportive one. It's easy to read for me but maybe for people with the same condition can properly thinking before read about this one.

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Valarie is perfect, but no one knows her secret: she has an eating disorder to keep herself so thin. This book covers a lot of ground. From comments from family members, to trying to figure out what she wants to almost losing her best friend, Valarie learns what it means to be true to yourself and to love yourself. This is a must have on shelves for readers. Some readers might relate to the disorder, some might relate to the family comments, and some might relate to the perfectionist attitude the pervades. It is a well done work on a very tough and serious topic. Must have for shelves.

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Hungry Ghost is the kind of story that makes you want to give the MC a hug. The story takes the dangerous messaging about bodies and beauty standards that can come from even the most well-intentioned parents and combines it with the complicated feelings of grief. The author notes this story is deeply personal - and most readers will see that purely by the passion and care in the story.

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Brilliantly done. It's a tough topic, but is handled immensely well. I can definitely see this being used as a book club pick as there will be lots of discussions and resources that can be shared with readers.

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In Victoria Ying's comic novel Hungry Ghost, Val has grown up connecting her body image with her worth because she feels she needs to be 'gwai,' a term with no precise English equivalent 'but it means good or obedient. Beautifully illustrated by Ying as well, this graphic novel delves into the topics of eating disorders and the stress of living up to high standards set by one's own family. Val's mother's continual monitoring of her food intake and overtly fatphobic judgments intensify her already present inner difficulties and compulsions to calculate calories. Many readers will be able to relate to the protagonist because the novel builds to a climax during a time of intense personal and social upheaval: the senior year of high school. Although intended for a young adult audience, its universal themes make it accessible to readers of all ages. A painful story that ultimately leads to a place of healing, it is a quick read, perhaps a touch too brief to properly invest in all the concepts.The stress of trying to meet unrealistic aesthetic standards and expectations is real.

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CW: disordered eating, fatphobia/anti-fat bias, death of a parent

Thank you to Hear Our Voices for sending me a copy of this book and including me in the tour. Even though I don't read them often, I love a powerful graphic novel! The pink, grey, and blue color palette of this one is beautiful and Ying utilizes darkness and light so skillfully to convey mood in the illustrations. I was quickly immersed in the high school atmosphere that made up Val's life: crushes, class trips, college decisions, insecurities.

Despite its short length, there is so much character growth that happens in this story! By the end, Val was mature enough to apologize to those she wronged and to accept that some people in her life might not ever change their opinions on her weight. While there was a focus on friendship and the power of a supportive community when it comes to eating disorder recovery, it was equally clear Val was the one who needed to take those first steps towards healing. This is one of those books I wish I had read as a teen; it would have been a blessing to start the lifelong work of unraveling my fixation on weight and thinness at an earlier age.

If I have any critique at all, it's that I wish it was longer. The story wraps up quickly and I wanted more Val. I think there was opportunity to go more in depth with Jordan's story, too. I'll be on the lookout for more beautiful works from Victoria Ying in the future!

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Beautifully written book that touches on the struggles of a teenager struggling with disordered eating. Added themes of perfectionism, family pressure, and being the child of an immigrant make for a stunning, although sometimes tough to read book. Highly recommend this book.

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A book that touches on two important but sensitive subjects. A teen that has to deal with these issues in a kind of first account way. Its not for everybody.

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Thank you so much NetGalley and First Second Books for access to this touching arc!

4.5/5 stars

This story is so important and so so touching. Valerie is a teenager and struggling with an eating disorder, as thinness is the primary way her mother shows she cares about her. Tragedy strikes, and Valerie has to make a decision - does she want to continue living the half life she has with her eating disorder, or will she try and reclaim her life?

I definitely weeped for the second half of this book. It was just so good and such an important thing to talk about. I felt the end was a little rushed, and that's why I gave it 4.5 instead of 5 stars. I wanted to know more about Valerie and her relationships with her family and friends!

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Valerie Chu hits every mark when it comes to being the perfect daughter but for how long. Valerie is crumbling from the inside due to all the pressure and needs a way to control some aspect of her life. One way is by limiting her food intake. Hungry Ghost examines how pressures and stereotypes harm the youth of today. Being held to impossible standards with no way to escape and take a breath. Ying does an exceptional storytelling of a mother and daughter tug of war as well as internal biases we all hold. While the topic is heavy the story feels light and a little bit shallow due to the face paced plot. Some of the secondary characters are not fleshed out and more time could have been spent on the mother daughter relationship.

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A story of the sensitive relationship of a family. How one conversation can change a life and its path. This is one of tragedy and a girl's struggle to finding her path.

Thank you #NetGalley and First Second Books for giving me the opportunity to read this!

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This graphic novel was surprisingly way more emotional than I anticipated and somewhat hard to read but still keeps you interested. The art style was beautiful and the overall story was intriguing. This story deals with a teenage girl who deals with an eating disorder and constant body shamming especially from her mother. This story does a great job of showing what happens in dynamics like this, dealing with things like self hate and harm as well as abusive parenting and putting societal and cultural standards on people. This book also had an unhealthy dose of fat phobia that was pretty painful to read as a fat person myself. Overall the story was compelling and had great representation for situations and live that deal with this pain. 4/5 ⭐️

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Valerie Chu tries to be the perfect daughter. She's studious and quiet; she's an obedient daughter. Her mother's obsession with food and being thin starts early, when she tells Valerie "don't eat, just taste" a piece of her own birthday cake; she constantly monitors what Valerie eats. Val's disordered eating mirrors most cases we hear and read about: she's focused on being perfect, giving no one any reason to find a flaw. Val's best friend, Jordan, has no such compulsion: curvy and confident, Jordan enjoys food and she enjoys life, earning Valerie's mother's quiet disdain. The two head off on a school trip to Paris where Valerie enjoys the taste of freedom, only to be called home for a family tragedy. As Valerie grieves, she has no time for perfection and her eating disorder is pushed to the side and gains her mother's notice. Valerie must come to terms with her mother's toxic ideas on beauty in order to move forward. Brilliantly written and illustrated with a haunting, ethereal beauty, Hungry Ghost is a heartbreaking look at the beginnings of body dysmorphia and how our families can create monsters within us. Back matter includes an author's note and resources for eating disorders and recovery.

Hungry Ghost received a starred review from Kirkus.

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