Monday, July 16, 2012

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

The Hunger Games
(The Hunger Games trilogy, Book 1)
Suzanne Collins
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Panem rose from the ashes of a devastated world, a totalitarian nation built on the bones of North America. Twelve districts kneel to the might of the Capitol, the smoking ruins of the thirteenth sufficient deterrent against rebellion. To flaunt their power over the people's lives, every year the Capitol takes two children from each district as tributes, entering them in the live, televised bloodsport called the Hunger Games. The last tribute standing brings great wealth and prestige to their district... while twenty-three young bodies drive home the Capitol's complete control.
In the coal mining community of District 12, young Katniss Everdeen struggles to support her mother and younger sister. Not only does she turn to poaching to put food on the table, but she barters her own survival, trading multiple entries of her name in the Hunger Games drawings for extra rations. It's a desperate way to live, but in District 12, desperation is the only life she knows. Even so, she never thought her name would be drawn... and it isn't. But when her younger, innocent sister Primrose's name is called at the reaping, Katniss steps forward as a volunteer to take her place. Prim is a healer, not a killer - and, if nothing else, years of poaching have taught Katniss what it means to kill to survive.
Torn from her poor home and thrown into the spotlight, handed over to the care of trainers and stylists and image consultants, all for the "honor" of killing - and likely dying - on national TV, Katniss finds her hard-earned survival skills put to the ultimate test... a test made even more difficult by her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta the baker's son. A seemingly-sweet boy, the lone familiar face in a sea of strangers, he will soon, like every other tribute, be nothing more than a potential killer once the Games begin.

REVIEW: A fast-paced story, The Hunger Games deftly sketches out its grim future without sacrificing action or characters. Katniss starts out a jaded survivor, with no room in her mind or her life for softer emotions or intrigues. Faced with the almost-incomprehensible world of the decadent Capitol and the manufactured drama of reality TV, not to mention the cold reality of turning her bow on a human instead of a rabbit or deer, she finds she has a lot to learn, and little time to learn it. She proves a little clueless at times, but never about her own survival: rather, it's her blindness to emotions, hers and those of others, that keeps tripping her up. Primrose seems far too angelic to live in the same world that produced Katniss, and Peeta comes across a little too obviously, but other characters tend to reveal hidden facets under the pressure of the Games, in and out of the deadly arena. The story itself is every bit as brutal and grim as one might expect of a world where children kill children for the entertainment (and education) of the masses. Even for the first book of a trilogy, though, I thought it ended on an awkward note; I half-suspect that Collins never intended it to be broken into three books, and that the break was an arbitrary decision on the part of the publisher.
Overall, I enjoyed The Hunger Games. It roped me into a solid day's worth of reading. I expect I'll follow the rest of the trilogy, time and budget willing.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) - My Review
Among the Hidden (Margaret Peterson Haddix) - My Review
Forbidden Mind (Kimberley Kinrade) - My Review

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