Jake loves roller skating, Broadway musicals, spending time with his grandmother and dreaming of traveling the world… until The Voice takes over. Many readers will recognize The Voice and its all too familiar refrains - sometimes whispered, sometimes shouted, but always a reminder to Jake that he’s not worthy of the things or people he loves or of anything else that brings him joy or even of being loved at all. Through both in and outpatient therapy at “The Pines,” a treatment center for teens with disordered eating, Jake has to reckon with what The Voice really is: a way for him to take control of an unpredictable world; a way for him to protect himself from the hurtful words flung at him by middle school bullies, a way to cope with and understand his mother’s neglect and his father’s disappointment.
Through heartfelt free verse poems, hand written letters and various therapy tools, (like feelings charts and daily schedules), John Schu tells Jake’s story as only an author who deeply understands their characters can. Throughout Jake’s journey, we see Schu both pushing and protecting Jake, making his story a safe AND brave place for readers to truly feel Jake’s heart while also exploring and taking care of their own. One of the most powerful aspects of this book is the way Jake’s journey normalizes the tools of therapy in ways that also acknowledge their imperfection. Jake succeeds and thrives, but he also struggles and fails. Not all of the methods tried by his doctors and therapists work. But everyone devoted to his care keeps trying, because they (and we!) know that Jake is worth fighting for, until eventually, Jake realizes it, too.
Just as Jake’s grandmother encourages him to “take care of her boy,” in Louder Than Hunger, John Schu has created a space for readers to wrap themselves in Jake’s story and use it as a tool for taking care of themselves. While Jake’s story is one that centers disordered thinking, ultimately, this is a book about love and connection and how, when combined, those things are so much louder than the voices that try to convince us not to love ourselves. This book will open hearts, mend souls and save lives. The author's note and list of resources at the end of the book add to the support Louder Than Hunger offers its readers.
I received an ARC of Louder Than Hunger from Candlewick Press, which did not influence my review.
Expected Publication: March 5, 2024
Audience: Jake's age ranges from 14 - 16. I think this book is best suited for readers in grades 6 and above.