April 24, 2009
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Young Adult Fiction
2008 Scholastic Press
Finished on 4/15/09
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
Wow! It's been a while since I've read such a good teen novel. While not quite as good as The Book Thief, it sure comes a lot closer than Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series. It may even be as good as the Harry Potter books.
The Hunger Games was my book club's choice for this month's discussion. We had a fantastic meeting, and yes, we all loved it. I've gotten to where I don't read any reviews or even the dust cover blurbs prior to reading a book, as I prefer to go in completely unaware of what might take place between the covers. And since this was a book club choice, I just assumed I'd give it a try without really knowing what it was about. As I began reading, I immediately wondered what I was getting into. I'd heard very good comments about the book, but wasn't aware of the premise of the "games." I had an uneasy feeling that it would be a bleak, depressing story about killing and death, but I continued on and quickly became engrossed in the characters and story. I think the author did a very good job of keeping the story interesting and suspenseful without resorting to gratuitous violence and gore. There was no lingering detailed description of the actual killings and I never felt uneasy or disturbed by the acts of violence.
On life in Panem:
When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly in school. Make only polite small talk in the public market. Discuss little more than trades in the Hob, which is the black market where I make most of my money. Even at home, where I am less pleasant, I avoid discussing tricky topics. Like the reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games. Prim might begin to repeat my words and then where would we be?
On the Hunger Games:
The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch — this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. "Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there's nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen."
To make it humiliating as well as torturous, the Capitol requires us to treat the Hunger Games as a festivity, a sporting event pitting every district against the other. The last tribute alive receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food. All year, the Capitol will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.
Fans of The Giver (Lois Lowry), Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card), Lord of the Flies (William Golding), The Most Dangerous Game (short story by Richard Connell) and, yes, the Twilight series (Stephenie Meyers) will not be disappointed. I know I'm not alone when I say I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Catching Fire, the second in the trilogy, which is due out on September 1st. Until then, I may have to check out the first in Collins' young reader series, Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles).
Further praise from fellow bloggers:
What an exciting YA book! I saw this when it first came out and didn't give it a second glance when I discovered it was science fiction (I am so not a fan), but then I started seeing it getting very popular on Amazon and decided to give it another look-see. I'm so happy I did because I was always eager to learn what was going to happen next. (Joy, from Thoughts of Joy)
What more can I say about a book that received rave reviews from Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer and Rick Riordan? Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is the best young adult novel I've read in over a year. It's an addictive, fast-paced story with a feisty teen heroine. (Lesa, from Lesa's Book Critiques)
Go here to read Stephen King's wonderful review on The Hunger Games.
Final words: Highly addictive!!