THE HUNGER GAMES (2008 Scholastic) by Suzanne Collins is a YA novel, available in hardcover for list price of $17.99. There are two digital copies available from B&N (Nook) and Amazon (Kindle) for $9.00 at the time of this writing.
THE HUNGER GAMES is the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. The story centers around a futuristic dystopian society that’s told in first person narrative by Katniss Everdeen, the sixteen year old teen living in District 12. The basic plot of the story shows how teens are forced to take part in a yearly event where they must fight to the death in what is known as THE HUNGER GAMES.
First let me say that readers seem to be obsessed with this series. Everywhere you look, there’s someone talking about how much they loved The Hunger Games. The B&N website as well as Amazon seem to average about five stars each. Clearly this book is well favored by many. Then recently I hear talk of a movie. That did it. I went off to find this book and read it once and for all. I may be the last person on earth to do so.
After the destruction of what was once known as North America, gave rise to a new country now called Panem. The Capitol is the ruling city. It is a “wealthy city” surrounded by districts that are struggling with food shortages and the scarcity of natural resources. Almost a century ago, the 13 districts rose up against the Capitol but they lost. District 13 was obliterated, gone, poof, out of here, destroyed. The Capitol now represents a symbol of fear and societal oppression.
As punishment for their defiance, the Capitol decided to create a televised reality show where each year, two people from each district, a boy and a girl aged 12 to 18, are picked in a lottery as tributes to participate in The Hunger Games. The games are broadcast live around the world and it is to the death. The reward for several weeks of near hunger, bruises and near death experiences is wealth and celebrity.
To be chosen for the Hunger Games is akin to being given a death sentence in District 12 especially when you consider that there are a few Districts with teens who volunteer and train for these games every year. These are what they term “career tributes.” So you have: one event. 24 tributes. One survivor. The Hunger Games.
If you think the Hunger Games is bad, wait till you read how life is for Katniss Everdeen, the young teen who is the main protagnoist & provider for her mother and sister. When her father died, Katniss had to step up because her mother gave up on life, leaving her and her sister to fend for themselves. Instead of starving to death, Katniss takes up her bow and arrows and hunts for food even though poaching is a punishable offense by death. This world is so abysmally bad one wonders if the tributes had the better deal: to be put out of their misery.
When the story opens, it’s the day of the Reaping. It’s mandatory that everyone in each district attend the lottery. Katniss finds herself included in the 74th Annual Hunger Games after she hears her sister’s name being called. Her sister Prim is only 12 years old and was only entered once for the lottery but as fate would have it, she gets picked. Many in the district already think that it’s unfair for a child that young to participate. But in steps Katniss, though, with her heart in her throat, walking up to the stage to voluntarily take her sister’s place.
Accompanying Katniss from District 12 is Peeta Mellark. He’s the son of a baker. Katniss remembers him as being the one who gave her the burned bread when she was having a “hollow day” where she explains that no matter how much you eat you’re still left with a hollow stomach. Anyway, Peeta slips her the burned bread when she shows up looking for scraps and his mother beats him for it. Since that time, Katniss has felt she owed him a debt.
Off to the Capitol Katniss and Peeta go, where they meet up with the other 22 tributes. They are dressed up, pampered and interviewed for the Hunger Games. The whole event is treated like a big celebration with camera’s and sponsors and such. The jovial mood of the games didn’t quite mesh with the “fight to the death” motif. It was just really weird.
The story gets interesting when Peeta blurts out during an interview that he’s been secretly in love with Katniss since forever. The reader and Katniss don’t know what to make of that news because Peeta comes off looking as if he is saying all the right things to win himself sponsors. It’s not bad PR to be portrayed as star-crossed lovers though and many in the audience feel for their “ill-fated love.” Katniss is conflicted and confused by Peeta’s feelings for her, however. She feels that he’s acting but I believe that Peeta is honest about his feelings for her.
Once the story moves past the tributes parading around the Capitol with camera’s following their every move, they are eventually put in the arena and that’s when the story gets bloody good. It gets brutal pretty quick with a high number of casualties on the first day. The action is almost non-stop, too.
In between staying alive and running for their lives, the author manages to stick in some really nice moments between Katniss and Peeta. But where does Gale fit in the picture? Well, Gale is Katniss’s hunting partner back home in District 12. We meet him briefly at the start of the story but despite their brief scenes together, there are hints at maybe something more than friendship going on there. Yes, this seems to be devolve into some sort of triangle but I know who I want Katniss to end up with. YMMV.
THE HUNGER GAMES was an interesting novel and almost unputdownable too. The story is character driven and kinda tugged on the heart strings a little. I was drawn to a couple of characters, namely Rue, a young 12 year old slip of a girl who gets picked as a tribute for this year’s games. She reminds Katniss of her sister Prim back home. The two become allies but can you really be allies when only one person can win?
The world the author created here is cruel and unjust where people starve to death and parents are helpless in protecting their children from this yearly event. There is the ever present censorship where speaking out against the government can cause risk to you and your family. There’s a scene where Peeta privately tells Katniss that he doesn’t want the Capitol to break him & make him into something he’s not. Could this be the start of dissent? Maybe even the start of another uprising? I hope so.
Wrapping this up, THE HUNGER GAMES was an enjoyable read. This hardcover book was actually a gift from a reader (thank you). My grade is a B. I’ve read this type of premise before & enjoyed it with Battle Royale. My verdict: tough, brutal yet fascinating storyline.
Other notes: this is my contribution to the TBR Challenge 2010 for the month of March. Please make sure to visit the other participants! When I wrote this review, I made sure that I didn’t mistakenly spell Katniss as “Katnip.” Okay. That’s all. Thanks.