‘The Hunger Between Us’ is A War-Torn, Hauntingly Beautiful YA Debut Novel

The Hunger Between Us (Courtesy MacMillan)

“The Hunger Between Us” (Courtesy MacMillan)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


Marina Scott’s debut young adult novel “The Hunger Between Us” is the Lithuania native’s moving tale of strife in war-torn Leningrad.

‘The Hunger Between Us’

Scott’s novel tells the story of Liza, a young girl grappling with the Nazi siege and its strain on food in the city of Leningrad, Russia. Liza must find food to survive by stealing from others, using ration cards provided by the government for small pieces of bread when available and by weaving a web of lies that harm those closest to her. A boy forced to live underground with his sister, a missing friend and a young policeman are all drawn into this web and masterfully captured as hungry, desperate and changed by the war in Scott’s prose. 

The characters drive much of the story while the war itself pushes the characters to act in increasingly drastic circumstances. Each is humanized by their hunger and need for survival and at the same time twisted by living in a city with no resources to spare. Discussions of war, violence and hunger give the novel a dark overtone that turns grim when rumors of cannibals roaming the streets and living in the sewers flood the city. 

But the novel isn’t afraid to show its heart alongside its teeth either. Bonds of family, friendship and new love carry the story just as much as the darker elements. There is something to be said for Scott’s writing style as well. There is the voice of protagonist Liza as a young girl but also as a survivor in times of war. The prose can be poetic and real on the same page. All this combines into a page-turning YA debut from an author who herself “grew up behind the iron curtain.” 

A Hopeful Debut

“The Hunger Between Us” has many elements typical of YA novels, such as a love triangle and a young protagonist faced with a crisis, but it has a frankness all its own when it comes to depictions of wartime. I felt for the characters who starved and did drastic things for a few pieces of bread or jars of ground meat. It was hard to read about so much loss, suffering and underhanded dealings among people on the streets and government officers alike. Beneath all of the challenges and suffering chronicled in Scott’s work, one theme prevails — hope. Hope for food, love, life and hope for something “normal” triumphs when the war slows and the siege on Leningrad is lifted. 

“The Hunger Between Us” isn’t afraid to be honest about how war can change people or force them to bend the truth to survive — even if it means hurting people who trust and depend on them.

This YA debut is a heavy hitter emotionally and artistically. I will be thrilled and haunted by the story of Liza and her friends for a long time — and urge readers to take a chance to find a bit of hope in it for themselves too. 


[email protected]