The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 374 p. Published September 2008.
I’ve known about The Hunger Games since it climbed the bestseller lists a few years ago but haven’t had the chance to actually read it myself until now.
With her mother not up to the task, Katniss Everdeen has had to fend for her family since her father passed in a tragic mining accident. despite being only 16, She’s perfected the hunting and foraging skills he taught her and, together with her friend Gale, managed to eek out a living with daily forays into the forbidden forests beyond the distrtict’s border.
Katniss lives in The Seam, the poorest part of Panem’s Twelfth District. The 12th, known mainly for it’s coal production, lies farthest from the capitol of what remains in a post-apocalyptic North America. The Capitol, in an effort to remind the districts where the power lies, hold a yearly competition dubbed The Hunger Games. 2 contestants, heralded as idols, are drafted from each district outside the Capitol to participate in this twisted reality series where fame and riches await the victor. The catch: they must outlive the other 23 contestants, all of whom are out to murder them.
Katniss is horrified when her younger sister is picked in the lottery and is quick to volunteer in her place. She knows that it’s a death sentence – no one from her district has survived a Hunger Games in decades. This is driven home when her compatriot, a childhood friend, is drafted and the pair meet their notoriously inebriated trainer.
What follows is a mesmerizing tale of wit, love, despair, and heartbreak. Collins immerses the reader into the paranoid mindset of a girl hellbent on survival with almost dizzying rapidity. Mixing in elements of science fiction, this young adult title does a fantastic job of drawing the reader into it’s world and characters. The complaint I hear most often from dissenters is how infuriated they get with the protagonist’s paranoid perspective as she reacts to imagined or misinterpreted slights. I, however, find this to be a true mark of Collins’ skill developing a character – after all, have you ever been around a teenage girl without becoming irritated at the irrationality of the experience?
While I’m not sure I’ll enjoy the movie when it comes out in 2012, I’ll probably see it. However, I’ll definitely be reading Catching Fire, the 2nd book in the series, as soon as I get through the current stack of novels on my shelf.
Rating: 4 out of 5