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The Art of Starving

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,344 ratings  ·  510 reviews
More Happy Than Not meets Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future in this gritty, contemporary YA debut about a bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder who believes he’s developed super powers via starvation.

Matt hasn’t eaten in days.

His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by HarperTeen
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Dan The main character, Matt, certainly has an ironic sense of humor and an ironic voice.

The title means Art almost the same way as Sun Tzu's The Art of …more
The main character, Matt, certainly has an ironic sense of humor and an ironic voice.

The title means Art almost the same way as Sun Tzu's The Art of War or martial arts like in movies where the arts are a bit supernatural. But it's important to know that the main character seems to have magical powers that he connects to his eating disorder. Mostly perceiving things that should be physically impossible. If speculative isn't your thing, then maybe be a little wary.

So saying, there's lots to love here. Lots of rage tempered with humor, and I personally thought the magical aspect added to the book. It allowed Miller to make explicit and physical emotions and conflicts that are usually locked up inside and invisible. All in the service of what is clearly a worthy effort by Miller to reach out to kids like he was with caring and honest understanding and hope to get them through the hard times.(less)

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Emily May
Feb 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted desperately to tell him that I had very good hearing—because I was starving myself—because it gave me superpowers.

I cannot tell you how much I wanted to love this book. I've been pushing myself through for the past ten days. A YA novel about a gay teenage boy with an eating disorder seemed too good and important a premise for me not to like it. But, unfortunately, this book is up to its neck in bizarroland and I could not get into it.

There are some great discussions happening in The
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting novel about a teenage boy with an eating disorder only he thinks that by starving he has super powers and he needs super powers so he can solve the mystery of his sister leaving town and otherwise hold his world together. The writing is great and the protagonist is really compelling. There is also a warm, complicated love story at the heart of this. I would have loved seeing more of that. I mostly wondered about the narrative frame which is the narrator creating a ma ...more
Larry H
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
"My sin, my condition, is way worse. I choose not to eat because I am an enormous fat greasy disgusting creature that no one will ever feel attracted to. Now you can't see me, but if you could, you'd probably say what everyone else says. 'What are you talking about?' 'You are so skinny!'"

When Matt looks at himself in the mirror, he doesn't see the attractive young man that everyone else sees. He sees a grossly misshapen, grotesque freak, with red hair and bad skin. He sees the kid that his high
destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]
"That's one of the more infuriating bugs in the human software. You can have two ideas that are total opposites and believe them both completely."

Since this is a book about eating disorders, I'll go ahead and warn that my review on its own could potentially be triggering. I'll add full content warnings for the book itself at the bottom of my review.

A lot of things are going wrong in Matt's life lately: his sister has gone missing, he's bullied relentlessly for being gay, he can't come out
Shaun Hutchinson
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There were days when I was depressed when I would lay in bed for 20 hours with my eyes closed, and I began to believe I could see through my eyelids. I didn't know if it was echolocation or X-ray vision, but I believed. There were other days when I could cut myself, and the pain made me feel powerful. It didn't feel like I was bleeding out, but that I was bleeding in. I know that none of those things were true. I know that I couldn't see through my eyelids and that cutting didn't make me powerfu ...more
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Hunger was a pack of wolves, starving and mad, running through my bloodstream, gaunt ribs showing through mangy scabbed fur, fangs bared at every shadow.
Hunger pulled me out of bed after midnight, twisting my stomach like wringing out a wet towel, sinking savage talons into my skin and marionetting me: clothes on, socks off, down the hall, out the door, into the night.

Here's the thing: the writing here is outstanding. Despite my feelings on the plot, I cannot deny that the writing is somethi
EDIT: Winner of this year's Andre Norton (Nebula) award! Congrats, Mr. Miller.

3.5ish stars.

The blurb is fascinating and strange: "A bullied gay teen boy with an eating disorder believes he’s developed super powers via starvation." Who comes up with this stuff? The book itself almost lives up to the promise of the blurb.

YA is a very hit-or-miss genre for me, and its appeal largely depends on the main character of each book. Luckily, Matt is a great character. He's frustrating, occasionally irrita
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: queer, 2017
"Being better isn't a battle that you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war, one that lasts your whole life and the only way to win is to keep on fighting."

Note: Seeing the lack of books featuring a male main character, or even a side character, who has an eating disorder, I’m so glad to finally read one that tackles this topic.

I’m having a hard time rating this. When I first heard of this book I was more than excited to read it. The summary sounded promising. A gay high school student who is bul
Sarah Elizabeth
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Hunger makes you better. Smarter. Sharper.
I have learned this through practical experimentation.”

This was a YA contemporary/magical realism story about a boy who thought his eating disorder gave him super-powers.

Matt was quite a quirky character, and I liked how he was openly gay and unashamed about being who he was. I did feel sorry for him though that he had so much stuff going on in his life
Elle (ellexamines)
2.5 stars, mainly because I have absolutely no idea how I felt about this. I didn't enjoy it at all but... it was still a good book? How do I even explain this.

The Art of Starving is an incredibly raw book about eating disorders. It incorporates magical realism seamlessly into the plot. The writing style flows well. Emotion drips from the pages. Each character is developed and intriguing.

And yet... there's something missing here. Part of this must be the haphazard plot, with the protagonist ch
Maria (Big City Bookworm)

Actual Rating: 3.5 stars.


Initial post reading thoughts:

This is another one of those stories that I just need to think about a little longer before I can write any kind of decent review... This was definitely a strange one and there were a few things I liked and a few things I didn't.


What I Liked

The subject matter. My favourite type of contemporary novels are the ones that deal with more mature and serious themes. The Art Of Starving deals with the topic of eating disorders. What I liked abou
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Right. Up. My. Alley.

Painfully relatable. Pretty realistic portrayal of a person with an eating disorder. Not so sure about telepathic superpowers tho. Also, Matt is a total badass.
Jay G
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel:

Matt's life has been getting increasingly harder. His older sister Maya has run away from home, his mother might lose her job, he's constantly being bullied for being gay and has a crush on Tariq, the boy who might be responsible for Maya's disappearance. To top it all off, Matt is quickly developing an eating disorder. As Matt continues to stop eating, he awakens supernatural abilities
May 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, lgbtq, ya, apl
3.5 stars

Funny, intelligent & so, so important. Matt is not a likable MC; that's not the point. He's hungry for validation; for love: for answers; for self-acceptance. And it's an uncomfortable ride to get there. My favorite part is how Tariq broke up with Matt not because he has his own difficult journey of coming out in his own time, but because he cannot & will not stand around & witness Matt's self-sabotage. Even after the beginning of Matt's treatment, there is nothing but friendship betwe
Cale Dietrich
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This is one of my favourites of this year. It’s such a powerful, moving story, one that is beautifully written and is incredibly engrossing. This book was all I could think about when I was reading it, and I still think about the characters often. I really think this is a must read for fans of gay YA.
Kaje Harper
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is really well written, unusual, and kept me fascinated. The narrator is probably unreliable, which some readers may not like, but I thought added an intriguing element. This is a book about a gay teen with an eating disorder (by an author with similar experiences) but not a pure contemporary. It veers sideways into fantasy, as Matt's belief that starvation sharpens his senses to the point of superpowers seems to be borne out by events that happen. How much of what Matt believes he can ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story of a teen with an eating disorder who believes the disorder gives him superpowers that will help him find out why his older sister Maya ran off was well-written and disturbing.
-It felt strange and upsetting as Matt the main character described his many rationalizations for not eating. Male eating disorders definitely do not have the profile of female eating disorders, so it was really interesting to read about Matt's feelings.
-At the same time, Matt experiences his first love, which h
The Art of Starving is the debut novel from prolific short story writer Sam J. Miller and I've been looking forward to reading this since I found out he was publishing a novel. I absolutely love Miller's short fiction, especially Calved, one of my favorite stories of all time. In The Art of Starving, we get a gritty first-person narrative of a young gay teenager's struggle with an eating disorder(that he believes he doesn't have). This is going to be a highly polarizing book for many people and ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Listen... I loved this. I don't think it's perfect, but I loved it. I know that a lot of people are very concerned about the idea of an eating disorder giving the character special powers, and I can definitely see how this could be harmful, depending on where someone is in the recovery/control process. But to me, that's what it FELT like. That really was what it felt like and that's the feeling that I still reach for sometimes and this book cut me really deep. As soon as I finished it I felt lik ...more
This is a tough, but compelling, read about a gay boy's struggle with an eating disorder which leads him to believe he has super powers. Raw and real, the look inside Matt's brain is scary accurate for what it is that a mental illness can tell you -- and lead you to believe.

I've read a number of reviews suggesting this could be damaging, but there's no where in here that the message is that Matt LIKES having superpowers. It, in fact, is ruining his life over and over. And the big takeaway at th
Patrick Ropp
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sam's debut novel is absolutely haunting. Matt, an angry, sarcastic gay teen with an antagonistic relationship with his body, tries desperately to find out why his sister ran away from home. Filled with churning anxiety, hunger pains, angry love, and a newfound view of the space time continuum, this novel is a delight.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
omg, this gave me mad we are the ants vibes. RTC.

4.5/5 stars
Roo James
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
A fantastically written novel for a young audience exploring mental illness in a way I doubt has ever been done before.

If I could I'd probably shove it in your face.
Audrey Laurey
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about a gay teenager who thinks he develops superpowers through an eating disorder. I liked how progressive this book was in it's portrayal of a gay protagonist, with his sexuality not being the crux of the story. The self loathing started to wear on me towards the end. However, the ending completely redeemed it for me.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
An unflinching story of magic and pain intertwined. I've seen some people say that the book glamorizes eating disorders, but I strongly disagree. Miller is a devastatingly evocative writer, and he makes it very clear what is at stake here.
Ivy Moore
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Realistic and emotional and funny, The Art of Starving is an essential read for everyone. I loved it, you might love it, I don't know. It'll open your mind up and make you a better person, at least. Please read it.

My favorite thing about this book is what it says about boundaries in relationships. Tariq breaks up with Matt not because of his fears about being out, but because he can't bear to go down the road of bearing witness to Matt's anorexic self-destruction.

I really love their final scene where Tariq picks Matt up from therapy. It makes it clear that Tariq still cares about him, but has boundaries, they are still friends but their intimacy can go no further. And Matt reflects on how he can't
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting read. On the surface it follows Matt, a sixteen-year-old boy with an eating disorder, family issues, and bullying because of his sexuality (as well as a couple of other things).

First of all, AMAZING title: "The Art of Starving." It drew me in immediately, combining two words that are seemingly opposites. It perfectly encompasses the mood of the novel, both romantic and bitter, party and brutality.

Moving on from that, I found the main character Matt an especially int
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reads-of-2017
”In the hospital, and at the rehab center, I used to imagine Better was a place you could get to. A moment when I would look around and see that Everything Was Fine. But that’s not how this works. Being better isn’t a battle you fight and win. Feeling okay is a war one that lasts your whole life, and the only way to win is to keep on fighting.”

Actual rating: 2.5

This entire review is confusing to write. I enjoyed this book; in a sick way at points, and at others, the way you enjoy a good stor
Megan Baxter
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had different reactions to this book depending on where I was in it. For a while, in the middle, I was frustrated at the main character. Not necessarily at the author, but the main character was being such a clueless judgemental asshole that I found it hard to spend time with him, fictionally. I always felt like the author knew that, and was trying to dig deep into something to portray it, but while it was effective, it was also unpleasant.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to
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Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (HarperTeen), one of NPR's Best Books of 2017. His second novel, Blackfish City (Ecco Press/USA; Orbit/UK) was a "Must Read" according to Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Magazine, and one of the best books of 2018 according to the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, and more. Joan Rivers once asked him if he was gay (HE ...more

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