Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, 2008
374 pages

I was browsing Stephenie Meyer's website a while back, when I noticed she was recommending this book as being one of the best she'd read in a while. I filed that away for later. "Later" came last week, when I had a Borders coupon that was burning a hole in my wallet. I bought The Hunger Games with the intention of giving it to my niece after reading it. This is the excuse I use for all the Young Adult fiction that I read - which probably seems like a lot. :-) 

The setting is post-apocalyptic North America, and sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, the main character and narrator, lives in District 12 in what used to be Appalachia (sounds like West Virginia or eastern Kentucky based on her descriptions.) Truthfully, her life kind of sucks. Her Dad died in a coal mining explosion a few years ago, and her Mom hasn't been the same since. Katniss took over the role of family breadwinner by illegally hunting in the woods outside the fence that surrounds their community. Despite numerous obstacles, she's made a life for herself and her small family, which also consists of her 12-year-old sister, Prim. 

Prim is the complete opposite of Katniss: she's a fragile girl, not a survivor at all. So when Prim's name is drawn for the annual Hunger Games (think Olympics, but fighting to the death), Katniss volunteers to take her place. The winner and his or her family will never go hungry again. This is Katniss' story as she completes in this event, which is so huge that citizens of Panem (the name of their country) are forced to watch as the teenage contestants scheme, plot, and kill each other off. It's the ultimate reality TV show.

The Hunger Games is not as violent as you might think, and there's way more to the story than gruesomeness. In a lot of ways this is more of a book for adults, in the vein of "V for Vendetta" (the movie) in that there's an underlying current of rebellion and what the government does to people who rebel. I would not want to live in this dark, ugly world. But that's the whole point and the thing I most like about Katniss: she makes the best of one bad situation after another. That's what makes her a true survivor. We can learn a lot from her and from The Hunger Games.

Rating: 4.5 stars - way, way better than I thought possible.