Sam J. Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving will hit shelves this summer.
The Art of Starving will follow a teenager’s battle with anorexia. The catch? He believes the condition will give him superpowers. While we wait for the novel’s debut in July, the first three chapters are available for reading on Epic Reads!
Check out a preview of The Art of Starving below, but be aware that there may be upsetting subjects present.
The Art of Starving
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 I’m some kind of expert or anything, but as an almost-seventeen-year veteran of having a body, I’ve learned a few basic rules that might save you some of my misery. So I’m 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 don’t come crying to me if something terrible happens when you can only follow half of them.
Understand this: your body wants the worst for you. It is a complicated machine built up over billions of years, and it wants only two things—to stay alive and to make more of you. Your body thinks you’re still an animal in the jungle, and it wants you to eat ALL the food, and stick your DNA up in anything you can hold down. Lust and hunger will never leave you alone, because your body wants you grotesquely fat and covered in kids.
Total calories: 3600
When you say it like that it sounds soft and harmless, like laissez-faire or any of the other weird sets of meaningless words they make you memorize in school. The letter from the psychiatrist sounded so calm I had to read it a couple of times before I saw what she was trying to say. She didn’t quote me. She didn’t tell my mom I said, Sometimes I think if I killed myself everyone would be a lot better off or Five times a week I decide to steal the gun my mom thinks I don’t know about and bring it to school and murder tons of people and then myself.
Instead, the psychiatrist said a lot of scary things in very tame and pleasant language:
Recommend urgent action—
Happy to prescribe—
Facilitate inpatient treatment—
Poor thing. How could she know my mom hides from the mail, with its bills and Notes of Shutdown and FINAL WARNINGS? I didn’t want to go see the psychiatrist in the first place, but the school set it up for me because I am evidently an At-Risk Youth. At risk of what, I wondered, and then thought, oh right, everything. At risk of enough that one or all my teachers filed whatever due-diligence report they’re obligated to file on someone who is obviously headed for homicide or suicide, so his or her blood isn’t on their hands. And as soon as the psychiatrist’s report came, addressed to my mom, I plucked it from the mail pile.
I read it on my walk to school. My mom still thinks I take the bus, but I stopped around the six thousandth time someone called me a faggot and punched me as I walked through the aisle. That kind of thing can really start your day off on the wrong foot. Plus, walking to school makes it easier to get there late, so I’m spared the agony of playing Lord of the Flies while we all stand around outside waiting for the first bell to ring.
The branches were almost entirely bare overhead. Stark and black like skinny fingers clawing at the sky.
One crooked tree still had half its leaves. Hunger rumbled in my belly, and I felt like if I reached out hard enough, I could stretch myself taller than any of the trees. Hunger is funny like that.
Anyway. I shredded the letter, let it fall behind me like a trail of breadcrumbs. Lesson learned: Don’t tell people you want to kill yourself. Although really I should have known that one already. If high school teaches you nothing else, know this: Never tell anyone anything important.
I slowed down. Savored my last few steps before the hill crested and brought me in sight of the school. Stared up at the trees, and down the garbage-strewn road. Stopped. Breathed. Wondered what would happen if I turned and walked into the woods and never came back. I thought about this a lot. I had plans. I’d hitchhike or ride the rails or follow the river.
Under my bed there was a bag, full of books and hoodies and diet soda from the vending machine behind the ShopRite, and one of these days I would be ready to sling it over my shoulder and run away for real.
You can read the rest of the preview on Epic Reads here! Pick up a copy of The Art of Starving in July.
A darkly funny, moving story of body image, addiction, friendship, and love, Sam J. Miller’s debut novel will resonate with any reader who’s ever craved the power that comes with self-acceptance.