The Hunger Month
Outskirts Press, Inc. (2020)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (9/2020)
“The Hunger Month” drops readers squarely in 1970s as they are introduced to college life at an all-female school, Holbrook College, in small town Missouri. From the anxieties of roommates to carrying a full course load, all of the stereotypical college stressors are present. However, as a few mysterious deaths begin to arise, will this otherwise normal college experience be interrupted? Do these deaths connect to a female student currently in attendance, or is it someone else living among them unbeknownst to them?
With a litany of characters, including Beth, Gwen, Audrey, Denny and Laurie, author Jessamine Koch sought to seamlessly weave all their point-of-views into a navigable storyline. Unfortunately, “The Hunger Month” falls short in pulling off this feat, promising a twisty tale of murder and intrigue on a college campus. But, once the pages are cracked open, the enticing thrills seemed missing.
After beginning with an empathetic and hooking prologue, readers are immediately introduced to each student’s travel to Holbrook College. With a full cast of characters to navigate, I scrambled to keep track of each character’s motivations, desires and struggles through the constant switching of narratives. Despite this wrestling of character arcs, much of the book is solely committed to the development and otherwise mundane life of college freshman in the 1970s, which felt a bit repetitive as readers are introduced time and time again to the timeless struggles of integrating into new routines and roommate drama. The book’s blurb hints at a plot sounding thick of murders, indecisiveness, and suspense but, in reality, the murders within are almost entirely glazed over and written as if they are no more than an irritating inconvenience to the main characters.
However, as the final 75 pages approach, the roommate drama ramps up, providing a rapid conclusion leaving readers scratching their head at the accusations being thrown. Finally, the author leaves a rather cliffhanger ending hinting at a second book, but after the fuzzy switching of narratives and rushed finale the intrigue for a book two isn’t quite there. In addition, the layout of the book presents some challenges for readers. Chapters end mid-page as new point-of-view narratives begin; the only true reading breaks arose when a new month began. In a book of 400+ pages, this could lead to fatigue and burn out for readers needing more time to process each character’s voice and storyline. In a genre oozing in school campus settings, “The Hunger Month” failed to stand out.