The Hunger Games Left Me Hungry For More
By Karen Ballum on April 27, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
Do you ever do that that thing where you know a book is good because you've read the reviews and people have flat out told you and yet you just can't let yourself believe that it's really that good? And then you read it and it knocks you on your butt because holy heck it is good. That is Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Yes, it's a young adult novel. Yes it's classified as science-fiction. Yes, there's violent killing. Do yourself a favour, get your hands on a copy of this book immediately.
Imagine what the world would be like if the United States engaged in a civil war against Washington. Imagine that the Capital crushes them, completely obliterating one "district". There are no more states, there is no more freedom of speech or equality. What you have instead are twelve districts (District 13 having been all but wiped off the map by nuclear weapons), each which provides the Capital with certain services. Some of the well off districts provide the Capital with things like precious jewels. Others, like District 12 which provides coal, are poor. Poor and live almost like medieval peasants. Meanwhile life in the Capital is much the same as our own current day lives, just more technologically advances.
As punishment for the rebellion each year two tributes, children over the ages of twelve, from each district are forced to participate in the Hunger Games. One boy and one girl from each district are put in arena and are forced to fight to the death, while it's televised for the world to see - reality television gone very, very bad (insert your favourite "the revolution will be televised" statement here). The tribute who survives will have a life of riches. It's a way of keeping the districts in line, a way of reminding them who yields the power. But the Capital never planned on a tribute like Katniss. Someone who is a hunter, clever and has searing resentment for the Capital. She gives them something they've never seen before and the games may not ever be the same.
I first heard about The Hunger Games after Stephenie Meyer started blogging about it and everyone started talking about what Meyer had to say about it.
I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it. I've been recommending it to total strangers in Target.
I have to say, I get it. We had an unusually busy weekend that kept me away from the book for most of it. Then when I had time to go pick it up I couldn't find it. It wasn't anywhere it was supposed to be. I was a very cranky person for a few minutes until it was located (someplace it definitely wasn't supposed to be and not moved by me). For the rest of the day anytime someone said something to me I ignored them. I loved Katniss. I mean, I pretty much love any strong female character that kicks ass but Katniss was more than that. She was a survivor. She was a protector. She was smart (perhaps too smart for her own safety). If have I been pulled away from this book anytime after Katniss had entered the arena I would have totally been reading it under my table too. I wasn't particularly fond of Peeta...but I'm honestly not sure I'm supposed to be.
I honestly don't know what took me so long to read this book. I mean, aside from the insanely long request list at the library. Just look at all these great reviews.
Collins has created a heroine with human flaws and weaknesses. But, Katniss is independent, strong, and courageous. She's the perfect heroine for a world gone mad. The Hunger Games is an exciting story, but it's a story of the results of war and tyranny.
We have Katniss, the girl, self sufficient with her hunting and survival skills — and also down to earth and a good person at the core. Were I to choose something Katniss is not, that would most definitely be “girlish” (in the fluffy, airheaded sense of the word); she sees the world with very serious eyes, having had to set food on her family’s table since she was eleven. Peeta, the boy, is also a good person (even kind), only his life has been a lot more sheltered and it shows. He actually manages to fend for himself for a while, but he is the more vulnerable one between the two despite his being a guy and all.
It is absolutely the kind of book that appeals to me the most. Books of survival and suspense. But ones that go much further. Ones that so totally suck you in that you're no longer just reading the story, you're living it. Stories with characters so real, you can't help but love them. Or hate them. Characters who make mistakes and you just want to scream at them, but at the same time you know that's why you love them so much...because they do make human mistakes.
Katniss as a character is also well-constructed; she's tough and no-nonsense, strong in the ways that are necessary for her survival, but her subtle emotional vulnerability will endear her to readers. I love that Collins brings out this quality with a light hand. Katniss herself has trouble recognizing her emotional weak spots, and this is one reason that her journey is still not over at the end of the book.
And it's not blatantly thought-provoking either; it's one of those novels that creeps up on you, subconciously starting a thought process that continues into conciousness. While being an entertaining read, especially how even in such dire situations, she is able to inject spasms of humour. The Hunger Games is utter brilliance.
There are certain advantages of reading a book a bit late into the game. While I wish I had read it earlier I can at least console myself that it's not as long of a wait until I get my hands on the sequel, Catching Fire, scheduled for release in September.
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