I have vacillated many times on whether or not to read this book. I have heard good things from most but am just a bit leery of the fact that children die from starvation. My cousin’s son Sean read the book and readily agreed to write a review for me. He did request that in return I read it. Sigh. I am now on the waiting list at the library. We’ll see.
I’m not really one to follow the fads of the day. That’s not to say that I’m not technologically savvy or closed-minded to the effects of pop culture. In general, however, I don’t like people telling me what I should wear, what gadgets I should buy, what I should believe about this or that, and how I should spend my time. The more someone tells me to do something, like see a certain blockbuster movie, the less I want to do it. The one exception to this rule that I have found is when someone suggests that I should read a certain book. This is what led me to read The Hunger Games, and was I glad I took my co-workers’ advice.
The Hunger Games is the first novel in a three-novel series written by Suzanne Collins, and is targeted primarily to teenagers and young adults. However, as someone who is rapidly leaving the “young adult” demographic (well, not so rapidly; I just turned 25 today), I can say that adults will enjoy this piece of literature, too.
First, a little background is in order to understand the premise. North America as we know it now does not exist; instead a new country that encompasses most of the continent has sprung up in the future, and it is called Panem. The country is divided into twelve districts and the Capitol, and each district has its own industry and its own challenges. As a way of keeping all the districts in line, the Capitol places many restrictions on them and requires a yearly contest called the Hunger Games. This is a fight to the death competition in which one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district is chosen to compete. The obstacles are unknown to everyone but those who make the Games, and require a great deal of resourcefulness, daring, and courage to overcome. The winner of the Games is the last person standing, and he or she is rewarded with wealth and prosperity. Their district is also rewarded, most notably with an increased food supply, which can mean the difference between life and death to the impoverished and starving districts around the country. However, the main motivation of the Games is to be entertainment for those living in the Capitol, and to continue to show the Capitol’s domination over the districts.
The main protagonist and narrator, Katniss Everdeen, is a resident of District 12, known for its poverty and specialization in the coal industry. She is basically the head of her household and is the main source of food for her family, which she obtains by illegally hunting with her best friend, Gale. When the time comes for the annual Hunger Games, Katniss’ 12-year-old sister Prim is chosen to be the female “tribute” from District 12, until Katniss takes her place in the competition. Then along with the male tribute, Peeta, she travels to the Capitol to be a part in the Games. They are trained, made over, and paraded around on television to the entire country, whose viewership is mandatory, before being placed in the arena that will mean death for 23 of the 24 participants.
The challenges are exhausting and the deaths are gruesome. The lengths that some of the tributes will go to survive are incredible. Alliances are made and plots to destroy each other are brought about as well. Katniss, as the narrator and main protagonist, naturally progresses well in the Games, but nonetheless overcomes many obstacles, as well as the numerous twists and turns in the Games. One major twist in the Games makes them take on a new meaning for Katniss in particular, and she is forced to deal with emotions and problems that were seemingly unforeseen at the time. Her fight for survival is no longer just about herself and she must deal with decisions that could affect her life, the lives of her loved ones, and even the entire country.
The Hunger Games was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down, no matter how hard I tried. I found myself taking time to read during meals, before bed when I should have been asleep, and even during the commercials of my favorite television shows. While the beginning was slower, and really the setup and back story usually slow things down for any novel, the rest of the novel was fast-paced, interesting, and above all well-written. The constant up and down of emotions during the course of the novel was overwhelming at times, but that’s one thing I look for in a good story. I couldn’t recommend this novel more to anyone who is looking for a good read. Some may find the content to be a bit much to deal with, but it is well worth getting through it, in my opinion. The idea that this could even happen to children, the idea of a government with so much control, and the idea that you must kill other people to survive just shocked, astounded, and amazed me at every turn in this novel. Personally, I will be hanging in and reading the last two novels in the series, and hopefully people who read this review will find themselves drawn to the series, too.