Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Page Count: 374 pages
Genre: dystopian, young adult
Copy for review was purchased by this writer
50 words or less: Impossible. Via Goodreads: 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 Katniss' sister is chosen by lottery, she steps up to go in her place.
I admit- I have a weird book hangup. When I read tons and tons and tons of excellent reviews and hype and excitement about a book, it kind of makes me put off reading it, probably because I don't want to be disappointed. That's the only reason I can think of for why I haven't read The Hunger Games yet. I'd heard all the fantastic things, about the great characters and the novel setting and the powerful narrative, but I just couldn't bring myself to get on board just yet.
The Hunger Games is everything I could want in a dystopian novel for young adults and more. From the very beginning, the story resonated with me in a very powerful way. Katniss is a heroine with a heartbreaking backstory; you can almost feel the weight of responsibility bearing down on her. At sixteen, she'd experienced things that nobody should have to experience; sadly, the worst is still ahead for her.
Peeta is a great partner for Katniss; watching her suspicions of his feelings and his motives was pretty heartwrenching. It's sad to imagine a world where things like love and loyalty and friendship and generosity are foreign concepts, but that's definitely what's going on in Katniss and Peeta's world. It'll be interesting to see how things transpire between them in the future, especially when Gale reappears on the scene.
Easily my favorite theme of the book was the role of the media and so-called "reality entertainment" in society. The descriptions of the pageantry and "celebrations" surrounding the games were simultaneously beautiful and horrifying; the idea of required viewing on TV is squicky in the extreme. Beyond that, there were scenes that were truly touching (like when the District 11 bread shows up- sob!) that had a touch of darkness about them because Katniss was aware that there was no such thing as privacy. Play up romance for better sponsorship? Sure! Murder for entertainment for the masses? You got it! A bacchanalia of greed and death? Bring. It. On.
In forensic shows and true crime shows, whenever a police office is killed in the line of duty, there's always a segment where they play footage from the funeral, usually with the officer's spouse or relatives front and center. There's a sense of the forbidden; I always get the feeling that we as the audience should not be watching, that we are not invited. That was the feeling that I got throughout much of the second half of The Hunger Games, especially when Peeta and Katniss began to get closer. I felt as voyeuristic as the audience in the book; the emotional rollercoaster this story put me on was what finally made me a believer in this series.
There's a fine line between a good series and a great series. A good series is interesting, has characters you believe in and root for, entertains you, and may teach you something. A great series has all of those things and does not give a damn about what you think or your beliefs. A great series is out to prove a point; you don't factor into the equation at all.
The Hunger Games is a Pandora's box of all kinds of horrible things; treachery, deceit, greed, callousness, you name it. And yet, just like in the box, hope is in there too. I'm reading Catching Fire as soon as possible.
Overall Grade- A+
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