Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult fiction
Australian publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback, film tie-in ed, 458 pages
First published: 2008
In the place that was once North America stands the nation of Panem. At its centre is the Capitol, home to strange and fascinating people who live a life of pleasure. Surrounding the Capitol are twelve districts – named imaginatively District 1, District 2 etc … They supply the Capitol with food, coal, manufactured goods, etc. The people of the districts live pretty poor existences compared to the Capitol dwellers.
Years ago the districts rebelled against the Capitol – but they lost. As punishment, every year the Capitol stages ‘The Hunger Games.’ Each district must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in a fight to the death on live TV. There can only be one victor.
This year they pick out the name of sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister, Prim. The names are drawn out at random (one lottery you don’t want to win). Katniss steps forward to take her sister’s place. From the poorest district 12, her odds of winning are slim. But her tough life has made her strong and given her the survival skills that just might see her become a contender.
What better way to start a blog about books than with the book on everyone’s lips – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I happily admit to jumping on the bandwagon with this read. I had heard of the series for a while, but it was the movie coming out that compelled me to buy book one. (One of the reasons I love it when books are made into films. Whatever gets people reading I say!)
I devoured The Hunger Games in a day and a half. Book two, Catching Fire, went even quicker and book three, Mockingjay, was inhaled so quickly I’m not sure I recall half of what happened. It has been a long time since a book series has captured my attention and imagination. But back to the review of book one …
It’s not the dystopian landscape that makes this book such a thrilling read. I think most readers are familiar with similar concepts of the future as a rather bleak place where the many are ruled by the few (yep, not that different to now). It was the concept of ‘The Hunger Games’ itself that intrigued me.
To send 24 teenagers into a specially constructed arena where they must kill or be killed and there can only be one winner is a horrifying situation. For the people of the Capitol this is the ultimate TV viewing and very few feel any twinge of remorse watching desperate kids kill each other. While to the people in the 12 districts it is a way of reinforcing each year that the Capitol is in control.
It reminds me of the Romans watching gladiators in the arena for sport. But it also says a lot about our current fascination with reality TV. People quite happily watch other people hurt one another emotionally and abuse and double-cross each other on TV as a form of entertainment. We’ve already seen the depths that ‘reality TV’ has plunged to (I think I lost a lot of brain cells watching Jersey Shore). It’s not that unlikely a concept that in the future people could become further desensitised as reality TV continues to push the boundaries in the name of entertainment.
Another thing I enjoyed about The Hunger Games was having the tough, yet vulnerable, Katniss to cheer for. You’ve got to love an underdog! From the poorest district 12, and with a rather surly attitude, her odds of making it through the games are not good. But she is a survivor who knows how to hunt and stay alive in the wild. And she has a streak of kindness under her tough exterior. First with her sister, then in the arena with Rue and later with Peeta …
Peeta was also an interesting character. (If you haven’t read the book, Peeta is the male selected from District 12 to participate in the Hunger Games.) I liked that he wasn’t much of a fighter or a hunter, but he was incredibly clever. He was never going to survive through his killing ability alone so he used everything else at his disposal. To team him as the love interest of Katniss kept me hooked as well.
I could go on writing about this book, but I’d rather hear what other people liked about The Hunger Games. Plus I don’t want to give away too much more if you haven’t read it. My next posting will be about the movie version. I can’t wait to see it! The anticipation is killing me (bad pun intended).
Have you read The Hunger Games? What made you read it?