Friday, January 21, 2011

The Hunger Games

Oh, wow, did I like this book.

I think I'm late to the party on this one, but I've been hearing a lot about it for the past six months or so, and I figured now was as good a time as any. I didn't really know what it was about or what to expect, but I was pulled in and blown away by the whole thing.

The book is about a future America where the Capitol rules over 12 Districts. A 13th was destroyed in a revolt, and as punishment for that revolt, every District has an annual drawing to send two Tributes to fight in the Hunger Games, a survival competition that will only have one winner. It serves as a reminder of the power of the Capitol and the humiliation of the Districts; the cruel twist is that the Tributes are always between the ages of 12 and 18.

The girl Tribute from District 12 is Katniss Everdeen, who poaches in the woods and is good with a bow. It's all about her journey from the extreme poverty of her home to the alien decadence of the Capitol. She trains for the Games with her fellow Tribute, Peeta, a classmate who once helped her when she was starving. When she enters the games she knows she'll have to eventually kill him in order to live; what complicates matters is that, just before the Games begin, he reveals to the audience that he's been in love with her for years.

So when we get into the Games themselves--a very visceral, emotional, dark experience--Katniss is not only running for her life, she's trying to decide where her loyalties can lie with the other players, especially Peeta, even though always looming in her mind is the knowledge that any alliances will be temporary, because there can only be one winner.

The Hunger Games are brutal. Katniss is stung by wasps and hallucinates; she has to listen, still, as another Tribute is murdered nearby; she is badly burned when the Gamemakers--who can manipulate the environment to make the games more interesting--set up a wall of flame in the middle of the night. Her every move is being televised, but Suzanne Collins wisely never takes us to the outside world once Katniss is in the arena. The isolation puts us more immediately in Katniss' struggle to survive. And as a result, it's a very hard book to put down. It's intense the whole way through, but you just have to follow through to the end because you're almost immediately invested in her.

I really dug it. This is technically a young adult novel, but Suzanne Collins doesn't shy away from any details; the contest is brutal and dark, and at times intentionally cruel, but the love story and the emotional resonance of Katniss' poverty and her struggle are also given weight and depth. They are reflected in the direness of the games and the powerlessness of these teenagers against the political machine. It's one hell of a fulfilling experience.

Read it. Seriously.


Katie said...

I hope you read the rest of the trilogy. Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Equally just as good.

Kal said...

We must be sharing the same brain again. I have just started this one and I am totally into it too. I heard the movies are in pre-production so I wanted to read the three books before the movie ruins them for me.

jan_shaw said...

i am addicted to the hunger games! <3 i stayed up all night to read it a second time lol i dunno it is just that good. i am so excited to see the movie when it comes out!!