Monday, June 27, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopian North America, Katniss Everdeen ends up taking part in the Hunger Games, a survival show that pits two teenagers from each of the districts in the nation in a televised fight to the death as they try to stay alive in a wilderness environment. Only one can win and bring fame to their district and more importantly, live. Katniss begins with little hope of making it through a day, but suddenly finds herself an underdog favorite, partially due the kindness of the other contestant from her district. Suddenly, it's hard to be out for only herself when friendships start to complicate who lives and dies.

Genre: Fantasy; dystopian future

Rating: 5/5

The Hunger Games is a book I'd heard a lot about but avoided reading because of the hype. It honestly does live up to it though, unlike some popular YA novels. While it's not a short read, the book reads so fast that I was able to finish it in 2 days. It's one of those that once you start reading it, you struggle to put it down and want it to keep going. Katniss is an excellent female character. She's smart and tough and far more useful in the novel than the main male character. She's a survivor, and if there's anything I like, it's a strong female character. She's almost too strong at some points, as she is hard on Peeta even though she has reasons to distrust him. She also avoids the cliche of the heroic, idealist heroine. Yes, she's self sacrificing, but only for her family. She has no greater ideals about standing up to the Capitol and is playing the games to survive at the start. Peeta is the one who seems to see some greater purpose. It isn't until later that Katniss quietly starts to make her stand.

The plot is well thought out and intriguing, relying heavily on dystopian survival ideas like those in the much darker and more graphic Battle Royale, a Japanese novel that inspired both a movie and manga. And larger issues are addressed, such as how you keep your humanity when everything around you is literally going to the wolves, class issues, and the concept of repaying your debts. The book is surprisingly violent and allows the main characters too kill others. Certainly they don't feel good about it, but they do it, which is sometimes shocking. And some of the characters are killed in particularly horrific ways. My only confusion with the novel comes from one of these violent scenarios, where Peeta is portrayed as feeling bad accidentally killing someone when it is acknowledged that he killed someone else earlier in the game. Unless that is cleared up in a later novel, something about the whole reaction seemed strange.

On the whole, the book is worth the endorsements it has been getting and is perfect for teens looking for an exciting read.

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