Monday, 23 March 2009

The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins

Summary - 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 Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

Review - This sci fi snob was dreading the time when I would have to read The Hunger Games. Despite the hype, the acclaim and the prizes, I was a reluctant reader.

I was wrong, so very wrong and for that I apologise.

I was instantaneously wrapped up in the story of Katniss (an abysmal name that equals Reneesme) from the first word through the last. The subject matter is dark, as it typical of dystopian future where everything is bleak and hopeless. Starvation and brutal violence are prevalent, as it the removal of freedom. Those that inhabit District 12 are amongst the worst of the Panem lot, with Katniss and Peeta to represent them in the Hunger Games (the Capitol’s way of punishing the formerly rebellious districts).

Katniss is tough as nails, uncompromising, ragged at the edges and undoubtedly a battler. Her one soft spot is her sister, Prim, and it's this relationship that is her undoing and her strength. She needs that strength as she faces dehydration, starvation, burns, injury and stings. Her fellow competitor is the charming and surprising, Peeta (a spelling abomination). The relationship between these two is a joy to behold as they snip and snipe at one another, distrusting and yet attracting each other. It’s Peeta that brings the most humour to their dire situation and often it’s his levity that allows you to have a much needed laugh. It is also refreshing to see someone who has repressed their feelings so much, feel for someone. I liked that Katniss is the atypical female.
The games itself is intriguing, helped along by the breakneck pace of the plot. The concept of the Hunger Games itself is thrilling, captivating and tense, yet it's very effective in keeping the population of the twelve districts under control. Threaten one’s children and you can have their families in the palm of your hand. The games are brutal and confronting and yet it’s here that understanding, knowledge, insight and hope are found. I had a few issues with the games despite my rampant like of the novel. The sponsor’s gifts were a little too convenient at times. We also hear Katniss thinking about her on camera reactions yet never see these cameras. The hovercrafts of death are seen and the fire shooting machinery is also discussed and yet the placement of the cameras is never once thought of. It’s almost like these camera are an omnipotent god, seeing and hearing all. Except this “god” is the eyepiece in which all the residents of Panem witness the brutal slaughter of their loved ones in the name of population control.

I was very invested in the events of this novel. The themes of family, survival, sacrifice, social order, the nature of competition and media manipulation are captivating. I badly want to read the second book but I have fears. Without the presence of the games, does this story have enough steam? Will it dissolve into an overly saturated, three-sided love story or will the complexities of buckling the system be addressed to become a political thriller? My fear is that it will dissolve into a Katniss/Peeta/Gale droop fest. Let's hope that I am I was before.

Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback, 374 pages
Published: March 2009 (Aust.)
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Suzanne Collins Website
News on The Hunger Games movie deal
Stephen King's book review


Janssen said...

So so glad you loved it. This was one of my favorite books of 2008.

Lenore said...

I am also a tiny bit apprehensive about book 2, but I'm betting she pulls it off :)

H said...

I'm scared of Book 2 too, it'll probably be good but I need amazing now! And you are so right about the character names.
I'm glad you liked it though, I think this book deserves all the praise it can get.

Chris said...

I really want to read this book.

prophecygirl said...

This book is beyond amazing, in my opinion. Can't wait for the sequel, and glad you enjoyed it!

Rhiannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhiannon said...

hmmmm, love this messed up crazy world she's created. Can't wait for Mockingjay.
I've linked to your review here: