Graphic Novel Review: Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying. First Second, 2023. 9781250767004. 204pp. Includes an afterword and a list of resources (books and websites).

Val grows up with her mom telling her to watch what she eats, as if being overweight is the worst thing that can happen to her. And whenever she eats she can hear her mom’s voice in her head. But her best friend Jordan is bright, funny, and full of joy, and she eats whatever she wants. Jordan is also overweight and, secretly, Val looks down on Jordan for it. Val has a few other secrets — she makes herself vomit after meals so she can stay thin and she’s got a crush on Allan, who wants to hang out with her and Jordan.

As Val starts to apply to colleges and heads off with Jordan and Allan and others on a class trip, it feels like the tension is rising and something in her life is about to break. And it does in a few big ways, including one of the most painful moments in a friendship I’ve ever seen in a book.

The art and story are beautiful and straightforward, and I think even middle school kids might enjoy this graphic novel, though it might be triggering for some. The ending is hopeful without feeling unrealistic, which is echoed in the Afterword where Ying explains a bit about her own history with disordered eating.


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