Hungry Ghost

First Second. Apr. 2023. 208p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250766991; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781250767004.
Gr 10-12–The personal nature of Ying’s graphic novel adds a deeply emotional layer to a book about disordered eating. Valerie Chu’s mother constantly reminds her to watch what she eats to remain thin, while Valerie strives to be a good daughter. The external dialogue of this mother-daughter dynamic is internalized and carries over to how Valerie views herself and others, painfully equating thinness with likability and love. Then tragedy befalls the family, and Valerie snaps at her best friend, Jordan, leading to a climactic understanding of her need for outside help. This is a heartrending read, with visual depictions of the harrowing extent of Valerie’s disorder; the ultimately hopeful ending underscores the need for counseling. Ying shows that while Valerie is able to grow as a character, making amends with Jordan and beginning her path toward healing with some distance from her mother, the journey will be an ongoing one. Emotions are gleaned from facial expressions and situational awareness rather than an overwritten plot. The story is enriched by the talented colors done by Lynette Wong. Using a muted, soft palette reminiscent of Brenna Thummler’s Sheets and Delicates, the art sets a mood that complements Ying’s story. Deceptively simple in presentation, with sparing dialogue, the graphic format shines here. An afterword describes the author’s personal connection to the story, and additional resources are included in the back matter.
VERDICT The book’s path toward healing is an example of bibliotherapy for teens. An excellent choice for YA collections.

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