The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller


Miller, Sam J. The Art of Starving. HarperTeen. 2017. 384 pages. $12.59, ISBN: 978-0062456717. Genre: Contemporary Fiction


Summary: Matt is fine.  Yes, his sister ran away, and school is just a series of issues to get through, and his mom is working herself to the bone, but he’s fine.  Especially because of the way he interacts with food.  If he can keep himself from eating, everything gets sharper–his sight, his hearing, his sense of smell.  He basically has super powers.  He may even be able to keep Tariq and his band of bullies off his trail.  When things with Tariq turn surprisingly romantic, and he can’t find out anything about his sister, Matt has to decide which kind of hunger is more important to him and whether his life–and continuing it, matter more than what he can do without food.

Reading Level/Interest Level: YHS/YHS, OHS

Evaluation: I thought that The Art of Starving was an incredibly fascinating look into the psyche of someone who is in the middle of having an eating disorder.  Most examples we have are of people who are starting or who are in treatment, but this looks at Matt when he still believes that his actions are for the best and that not eating is making him stronger and better as a human being.  This information is at once disturbing and beautifully complicated. I enjoyed reading Matt’s story and even more, I appreciated that the consequences of his actions were realized at the end-ruined relationship with his boyfriend, complications for his mother and his sister, and potentially irreversible consequences to his body.  Miller’s story is valuable for what it represents and for what he represents as a someone who came out on the other side.

Annotation: What’s a little hunger when you can have superpowers?

Bibliotherapeutic Usefulness: The Art of Starving is a unique book in the canon of books regarding eating disorders.  Not only is it a book about a young man who is experiencing an eating disorder, but it also delves into LGBT issues and is semi-autobiographical.  Most books about eating disorders only speak to the idea of girls having them and that representation is harmful to the millions of men in America that will experience some form of eating disorder in their lifetime.  Miller’s experiences, while fictionalized, allow for young men to understand what is happening to them–which I’m sure is assistance that Miller himself would have appreciated.

Issues Present: eating disorders, sexual content, physical violence

Defenses: As stated above under Bibliotherapeutic Usefulness, The Art of Starving is one of the only books that talk about eating disorders in main protagonists.  That, along with the fact that Miller talks about the positive feelings that he has when he doesn’t eat (making this book

Booktalk Ideas: What would you give up if you could have superpowers?  Would it be friends? family? eating?  That’s a choice that Matt decides to make.  He stops eating more than what is the smallest amount of what is vital to survive.  But with his body getting weaker, and his boyfriend and mom getting suspicious, what will Matt decide is more valuable?

Genre: Realistic Fiction – LGBT, Realistic Fiction – Mental Health

Readalikes: Worlds on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton, Running with Lions by Julian Winters, Never Do A Wrong Thing by Marcus Herzig

Author’s website:


Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (2017), The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Book (2018)


Why I Chose It: This book was recommended to me by my Book Challenge Presentation partner, Abigail.  She had used it during her Topic Presentation and suggested it because of the differences that it has from regular eating disorder stories.


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