Review: Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Hungry Ghost by Victoria Ying

Title: Hungry Ghost
Creator: Victoria Ying
Genres: Graphic novel, contemporary
Pages: 208
Publisher: First Second
Review Copy: DRC from publisher
Availability: April 25, 2023

Summary: A beautiful and heart-wrenching young adult graphic novel takes a look at eating disorders, family dynamics, and ultimately, a journey to self-love.

Valerie Chu is quiet, studious, and above all, thin. No one, not even her best friend Jordan, knows that she has been binging and purging for years. But when tragedy strikes, Val finds herself taking a good, hard look at her priorities, her choices, and her own body. The path to happiness may lead her away from her hometown and her mother’s toxic projections—but first she will have to find the strength to seek help.

Review: Before I begin, I want to encourage anyone interested in reading Hungry Ghost to check the trigger warnings. Hungry Ghost depicts eating disorders, fatphobia, and the death of a loved one.

I’ve been a fan of Victoria Ying’s work for a while — first of all, she is a Taiwanese American, and I am always going to be hyped for Taiwanese Americans creating, writing, and making art. Second of all, I really enjoyed her middle grade fantasy adventure City of Secrets. It’s a great read for middle grade fans of graphic novels with plenty of adventure and fun — highly recommend!

Hungry Ghost is a departure from City of Secrets. It is an impactful and emotional YA graphic novel about a Taiwanese American teen girl who does her best to get good grades and keep her mother happy. But beneath the surface, Valerie Chu is struggling with an eating disorder, and when the worst happens, Valerie must confront who she is and who she wants to be — as a daughter, a friend, and as herself.

Victoria Ying is an incredible illustrator and storyteller. Her writing is poignant and cuts to the heart of the story without hesitation. The family pressure to measure up and to fit a certain ideal, particularly the specific flavor of pressure that comes from certain Asian families, was all too familiar. It’s a sensitively and well-written narrative accompanied by powerful illustrations. The story is an emotional one, but also filled with hope. I loved seeing Valerie’s friendships take shape and give her strength. I also was so delighted to see references to Taiwanese culture throughout the graphic novel.

Hungry Ghost includes a powerful message alongside incredible illustrations that bring Valerie Chu and her story to life. I highly recommend picking up Hungry Ghost if it sounds like it’s for you.

Recommendation: Get it now! (NOTE: Please check the trigger / content warnings on this graphic novel before reading.)