Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic (September 14, 2008)
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Hunger Games (Book 1)
Source: E-book/Kindle Fire
ISBN-13: 9780439023481
Genre: Dystopia

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I will be the first person to admit that I put off reading this book. When I first heard about it earlier last year, I kind of dismissed it, but I was definitely judging the book before I even read the synopsis. I knew that it was popular and I knew that everyone liked it, but I had to see for myself exactly why. I was able to download the lending copy of this book onto my Kindle Fire and actually the digital edition was quite good. The book was a very fast read and I quickly found myself in the dystopian world that Suzanne Collins had created. One of the reasons that I liked the book so much was that she was able to take North America and completely wear it down into the new country of Panem, where the Capitol exploits its citizens and the 12 Districts provide the materials needed for the Capitol to maintain its luxurious lifestyle. While denizens of the Capitol enjoy haute-couture and parties, those in the districts are mostly living in poverty. That's especially the case in District 12, where we find Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the story.

By now, we've all seen in the trailer that Katniss announces that she'll volunteer in The Reaping, where the two district entrants for the Hunger Games are chosen. With this introduction to Katniss, we immediately see that she is extremely protective of her family.  She has largely become the provider for them, going out to hunt with her closest friend Gale. We learn that her father died in an accident at the coal mine, leaving Katniss, Primrose (Prim), and their mother to provide for themselves. Through trading her wild game in the Hob, Katniss is able to obtain the meager provisions that help her family to sustain themselves. She also takes out the tesserae, which provides    enough oil and grain for her family for a month. That also puts her name in for The Reaping more times than normal. Her self-sacrifice allows her family to hang on and when she volunteers for The Hunger Games, in the forefront of her mind is the prospect of her family being well taken care of if she wins.

Collins presents Katniss as a character who is both completely unsure of herself and incredibly strong at the same time. She acts on instinct most of the time, and while it may seem to her mentors that she is hopeless, Katniss begins to emerge as a figure who can completely change the system. And it becomes clear that her fellow tribute, Peeta, has his own opinions of the Capitol and asserts that he wants to still be himself even with the horrific and brutal fighting of the Games. It's hard for her to discern his true feelings, and she struggles with her emotions toward both Peeta and Gale. Peeta is, however, incredibly calculating and he knows exactly how to play the Games. Both of the male protagonists come to play an important role in her life and their love triangle isn't simply a plot device, rather it actually drives the story and drives her motivation to win.

I really enjoyed this book and was very glad to have finally read it. There really is no minor character in this book. Each is given their own distinct personality and I am eager to see how the film adaptation captures the eccentricities of the characters. She captures each of the Districts and the Capitol with vivid descriptions, though it's obvious that life in District 12 is bleak. The pacing of the story was great and I found myself having devoured the book quickly. Though the movie premieres in just two days, I highly recommend everyone reading the book.

Rating: 5/5

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