Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher, Year: Scholastic, 2008
Other Works: Catching Fire
Flags: Teen angst, adult themes
Rating: A+, or Must Read Now!
Challenge: Library, Countdown
Premise: A new government controls what used to be North America and holds the Hunger Games, a gladiator-style, to the death fight between competitors, as punishments for the districts' rebellion. Each year, families are forced to send one teenage boy and girl to the games and watch them die on television.

In my opinion, this book is worth all the hype and attention its received and then some. It’s an easy and fast read, but the topics and issues it discusses are deeply relevant and probing.

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, a part of the new government of a war-torn North America Panem. Because of the districts’ failed rebellion, as a constant reminder of their weakness and total lack of control, the government invented the Hunger Games. A Roman gladiator–style, pseudo reality TV program, where “tributes” (two teenagers from each district selected at random) are forced into an “arena” (some destitute place, rigged with manipulatable traps and cameras) where they fight to the death until one person is left standing. When Katniss’s sister, Prim, is called to step forward and join the games, her protective nature forces Katniss to volunteer to take Prim’s place. She, along with Peeta, her companion male tribute, makes her way to the Capitol to fight for her life. +/-

Like everyone else on the planet, I instantly fell in love with this book. It’s a heart-pounding tale from beginning to end. Katniss is a strong and powerful heroine, flanked by a stellar cast of supporting characters, from her loyal co-tribute Peeta to her hunting companion Gale to her unlikely friend Rue. She is a woman who knows how to take care of herself, having grown into the leadership role of her family after her father’s sudden death, her mother completely incapacitated with grief and her little sister too young and frail to fight. She enters the arena with important skills: knowledge of edible plants, successful hunting techniques, and living on very little. These things make her strong, but the limits of that strength will be tested to a breaking point.

Throughout the story I just kept turning over in my head why the tributes couldn’t just refuse to participate. How come they couldn’t just ban together and find a way to keep alive until the audience would tire of the game? This book answers that question in lots of ways; it’s almost like an experiment of force and control. The whole point of the games is the psychologically manipulate an entire population of people by demonstrating their ability not only to kill them, but also to convince them to kill each other.

And the reality TV aspect cannot be overlooked. After putting this book down, it really made me rethink the reasons why I like the shows I do. I’ll never look at The Biggest Loser the same. In so many ways these shows are rigged for drama, because that’s what we love to see. We want to witness shouting and fighting and people losing control. Perhaps we haven’t gone so far as fighting to the death—but could we really rule that out as a possibility?

I quickly set out for the second book in the series, and it will be a trilogy when all is said and done. I also think this book has great potential for a prequel at some time. We know there’s been a war and that this civilization is the result of it, but we really are given very few details, especially about a mysterious District 13, which was completely eradicated during the rebellion by the Capitol. I would love to get more back history on this place. Hopefully, the author might consider it. =)

I think this book has been placed in the correct categorization, being young adult, but it’s a really great story for any age, and adults can learn just as much from it as teenagers. If you haven’t read it yet, amend your ways! A really great read.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

I know I'm in good company when I say I loved this one. I love your blog too, especially the author photos.