Thursday, March 19, 2009
weekly book review: the hunger games, by suzanne collins
Regarding the sci-fi/fantasy genre, I've recently come to this very simple conclusion: if it takes place in outer space then I probably won't like it, but if it's set in a dystopian future world then I probably will. And although I'm not positive what it means about my fundamental psychology that I'm a tad obsessed with horrific future scenarios, I guess I have a pretty good idea.


I recently finished The Hunger Games, which is the first book in a planned trilogy set in, yes, a dystopian future. The United States is gone, and what is left of North America (now Panem) has been divided up into thirteen districts, ruled over by a dictatorship run from a city simply called The Capitol. Like most dictatorships, life in The Capitol is swanky and well-fed, while the poor saps in the surrounding districts exist in varying levels of starvation, squalor, toil and strife. And it's very unlikely that things will improve anytime soon. District 13 once had the audacity to rebel, and - *poof!* - no more District 13.

In order to ensure that the remaining twelve districts aren't tempted to follow in the footsteps of District 13, the television-obsessed Capitol devised The Hunger Games: a annual lottery in which two children - one male, and one female - are selected each year from all twelve districts and forced to fight it out in "The Arena." The lone winner gets fame and fortune, while the 23 losers get a cruel, televised death. It's a yearly, crushing reminder of how much power The Capitol wields, and is required viewing for all of Panem.

The heroine of The Hunger Games is a incredibly resilient and resourceful young lady named Katniss Everdeen who hails from District 12, or what used to be called Appalachia. The folks in District 12 are desperately poor, and the kids unlucky enough to "win" spots in the Games are rarely competitive. Katniss is, of course, a notable exception. When her little sister had the misfortune of being selected, Katniss did the unimaginable and volunteered herself in her place. Further complicating matters is the second contestant from District 12, Peeta Mellark, who has a very obvious crush on the plucky Katniss despite the fact that the two are about to spar off in a fight to the death.

Personally, I could have done without this side love story, but I also understand that romance is a basic requirement for teen fiction. Another quibble I had is that the ending felt abrupt, but then I had also managed to forget that The Hunger Games is only the first book in a planned trilogy, so a hasty ending is a forgivable offense. Other than that, I really, really enjoyed The Hunger Games, despite one truly disgusting scene, some eye-rolling lovey-dovey moments, and a nagging feeling that I'd read parts of it before (*cough!*TheRunningMan*cough!*). It may not have been perfect, but it hooked me early and hooked me hard; I devoured the thing in two sittings, and am eagerly awaiting the release of Collins' next installment, which I believe is due to be released this September.

In a nutshell, The Hunger Games is gritty, absorbing and inventive, even if not 100% original. Fans of dystopian lit. should approve.

Suzanne Collins
2008, 384 pages

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Anonymous Stephanie Elise M. said...

I really enjoyed the ideas in The Hunger Games. I read it because I have a friend who was going to read the second one and recomended to me the first. Soon after, Catching Fire came out, and now I cannot believe that I have to wait a whole year more for the third of the trilogy.

<3 Stephanie Elise M.

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