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Literature / The Art of Starving

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''"Congratulations! You have acquired one human body. This was a poor decision, but it is probably too late for you to do anything about it. Life, alas, has an extremely strict return policy.

Not that Iím some kind of expert or anything, but as an almost-seventeen-year veteran of having a body, Iíve learned a few basic rules that might save you some of my misery. So Iím writing this Rulebook as a public service. Please note, however, that there are a lot of rules, and some of them are very difficult to follow, and some of them sound crazy, and please donít come crying to me if something terrible happens when you can only follow half of them."''

The Art of Starving is a young adult science fiction/fantasy novel by Sam J Miller.

Matt's life is a complete mess. He's bullied at school for his sexuality; he finds himself desiring the same bullies who make his life a living hell while also envying them for the bodies he could never have; his single mother is on the brink of losing her job and to top it all off, his older sister Maya has recently run away from home and won't tell him why. The only thing Matt has some control over is his own body -specifically, the ability of denying it food.

But don't worry-it's not like he has an eating disorder or anything. It's not that big of a deal. Starving himself clears his mind, makes him sharper and seems to have unlocked superpowers, like the ability to see things he shouldnít be able to see, the knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of peopleís heads and maybe even the authority to bend time and space... All of which he'll need to infiltrate Tariq's inner circle and uncover the truth behind Maya's disappearance and maybe exact revenge on those who had hurt him and his loved ones.

However, Matt will soon learn that controlling someone's hunger is not as easy as it seems and that food isn't the only one.

This book contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • While meditating, Matt finds overhears Ott's dad verbally abusing his son.
    • Tariq confides to Matt that his dad used to beat him up until he got taller then him and that he pushes him into turning into a carbon coppy of himself.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Matt's mother, who's introduced passed out on the couch when Matt comes back from school. According to him, her alcoholism has gotten worse after Maya ran away.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Matt develops an animosity towards his missing father after learning that he was the reason Maya ran away. After completing his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Matt attempts to march to Providence only to be stopped by Maya and his own debilitating health.
    • It turns out that Maya ran away to confront their dad for how he abused their mother and threw hot coffee on him, making her go into hiding.
  • Anti-Hero: Matt is cynical, vengeful, admits having both suicidal and homicidal ideation and not above manipulation but is mostly driven by his love for family.
  • The Beastmaster: During his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Matt takes control of the pigs from the slaughter house to rampage through the town.
  • Better as Friends: How Matt and Tariq end up at the story's ending.
  • Big Sister Worship: Matt greatly admires his older sister Maya for her take-no-shit attitude.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hudson was destroyed in Matt's rampage and many pigs got killed because of this. Also, Matt's eating disorder took a permanent toll on his body, especially his heart, to the point a doctor advises him that he'll probably need a heart surgery in the near future. On the plus side, Maya came back, their family came clean about their addictive/obssessive tendencies, Matt's mother got a white collar job on the town's reconstruction, Matt and Tariq decided to stay as friends and Matt might not be as much of a pariah in his senior year and Matt is on the road of recovery and is more balanced individual. Plus, he learns that he still has his powers.
  • Broken Pedestal: Matt doesn't take very well that his sister left him and his mother for their dad.
  • Cool Big Sis: Maya, a badass punk-rocker whose sole presence made that no one messed with Matt. She even helped him come out when he was younger.
  • Dirty Coward: Matt calls Tariq this in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech when the latter breaks up with him, due not being able to handle Matt's eating disorder and being to afraid to publicly date him, which Tariq agrees with.
  • Disappeared Dad: Matt's father.
  • Domestic Abuse: At the ending, Matt's mother reveals that Matt's and Maya's dad used to abuse her and it took a lot of willpower to break away from him.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Matt hates his first name because, in his words:
    A matt is something people step on. A matt is full of filth.
  • Fake Band: Maya's punk-rock band Destroy All Monsters.
  • Formerly Fit: Matt's mother used to be super thin when she was younger. It makes Matt fear that he's going to become like her later in life.
  • Gang of Bullies: Ott, Bastien and Tariq. Ott is the classic Barbaric Bully, Bastien prefers a more verbal aproach and Tariq is the bystander.
    • Jerk Jock: They're all in the school's soccer team.
  • Gay Guy Seeks Popular Jock: Much to Matt's own chagrin, he finds himself attracted to the jocks who bully him. He eventually starts a relationship with Tariq.
    • Inverted Trope with Tariq, who has been attracted to the unpopular and geeky Matt ever since eight grade.
  • Good Bad Girl: Maya. She's rebellious, a chain-smoker and has dated many guys before and is also a very supportive sister to Matt, being the only one who knew about his sexuality and fully accepted him.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Matt comes clean about his suicidal ideation, homicidal thoughts and even his hated first name to establish a report of confidence between himself and the reader so the latter trusts him when stuff gets trippy...
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Tariq. Despite being one of the popular kids and always hanging out with Ott and Bastien is clocked by Matt as someone very lonely, something he tries to explore to find out about his role on Maya's disappearance. Tariq quickly takes a liking to him and they start to hang out a lot outside of school grounds although it's also influenced by Tariq having a huge crush on Matt for years.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Maya had a crush on Tariq, who is gay and has a crush on her brother.
  • In Vino Veritas: Matt explores this trope to get a confession from Tariq.
  • It Runs in the Family: For a long time, Matt's mother has feared that her addictive personality passed on to her children and is proven correct after finding out about Matt's eating disorder.
  • It's All My Fault: Matt's mother blames herself for passing her addictive personality onto Matt. She also blames her refusal of giving Maya any information about her dad for Maya running away from home.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Matt, who's a fan of video games, comic books and Avatar: The Last Airbender and has read The Art Of War many times.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: As his mental state worsens, Matt turns Tariq into this, internally calling him "the only good thing in [his] life and doing whatever he can to keep him. He doesn't take well when Tariq dumps him because he can't take his disorder.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Tariq.
  • Lovable Jock: Matt discovers that Tariq isn't a monster like he thought he was and had nothing with Maya's disappearence.
  • Momma's Boy: While he fears turning out like her, Matt adores his mother and hates seeing her cry.
  • Powerful and Helpless: Despite all his powers, Matt ends up unable to stop his mother from losing her job.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Matt.
  • The Reveal: It turns out that neither Tariq nor his friends hurt Maya. She just wanted a ride to Providence so she could meet up with her estranged father.
  • Rich Bastard: Bastien, whose father is the owner of the town's pig slaughtering business and Matt's mother boss.
  • The Runaway: Before the novel started, Maya ran away to Providence and keeps in touch with Matt and her mother via phone calls and emails. She tells Matt she did it so her punk-rock band could record a demo but Matt doesn't buy it for one second.
    • Matt's mother tells him that she herself ran away to Hudson when she was around Maya's age.
  • Secretly Selfish: While in recovery Matt admits that all his action through the novel were motivated by his desire to be in control.
  • Secret Relationship: By midway through the novel Matt and Tariq start dating in secret due to Tariq being afraid of his homophobic father kicking him out if he found out he was gay. Although a bit disappointed, Matt accepts these conditions.
  • Self-Made Man: Tariq's dad was a poor Syrian immigrant who worked his way up and became the wealthy owner of a Christmas tree store.
  • Sibling Triangle: Before Maya's disappearance, she and Matt both shared a crush on Tariq and Matt even acted like a Shipper on Deck when Tariq began messaging Maya. In one of their phone calls, Maya apologizes to Matt for not telling him that she knew Tariq was into him.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Maya used to have a huge crush on Tariq, which Matt believes Tariq took advantage of to do something so terrible that drove her away from Hudson.
  • Stepford Smiler: Matt's mother puts on a relaxed, happy front to hide her fears of not being a good enough mother and of losing her job.
  • Straight Gay: Neither Matt nor Tariq demonstrate any stereotypical characteristics.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Matt's mother
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: As a side-effect of his eating disorder, Matt continues to see himself as a blob while in actuality he's Nothing but Skin and Bones.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Maya is a tough, short-haired punk-rocker who plays the guitar at a band, smokes, wears spikes and once beat up a boy. She also had a crush on the popular soccer star from her school and used to gush with Matt about boys and read How to Tell if a Boy Likes You quizzes in Cosmo and Seventeen with him.
  • Weight Woe: Played for Drama and a male example for that matter. Matt's eating disorder began because he hated his appearence but later he became addicted to the way he felt when he starved himself.
  • Windmill Crusader: Matt's mother tells him many times that nobody hurt Maya but he still thinks that Tariq had something to do with it and is determined to bring him and his buddies down. She was right. Matt doesn't take it very well. He then becomes obsessed with fighting against his dad, whom he blames for Maya abandoning him and his mother.