In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, bad things have happened in North America and the only thing left is the nation of Panem, made up of 12 districts which have been subdued by the The Capitol, and ruled with an iron fist. Hunger and starvation are rampant, and all the district’s children have to compete in what’s known as The Hunger Games (now doesn’t that sound fun!). From the ages of twelve to eighteen, children are entered into a lottery, and get this, the older you get the more times your name is entered into the lottery, and the more chances that you have of being chosen to compete. The “lucky” winners, two from each district (one boy and one girl), are entered into a highly promoted and televised fight to the death tournament.
Katniss Everdeen has been the de facto head of the family since her father died in a mining accident. Her mother doesn’t seem equipped to handle the realities of family life after the death of her husband, so a resentful Katniss takes charge of the family and illegally hunts in the woods alongside her friend Gale. Together, they supplement the meager food allotments that their families receive from the government. When Katniss’ sister Prim turns twelve and enters the lottery for the first time, Katniss is shockedto hear her name called, and quickly volunteers to go in her place. Although she figures it’s the end for her, she promises Prim that she will do whatever it takes to stay alive, but that’s before she meets her competition.
So…yeah. I have pretty much nothing new to add to The Hunger Games discussions. It’s a fantastic read. I picked it up and only put it down after I finished it a few hours later. It wasn’t anything that I expected I would like. I haven’t been a big reader of either dystopian fiction or apocalyptic fiction, but it was the book that I just kept hearing about. The book that would not go away. So, finally I just gave in and read it.
Katniss Everdeen is a great heroine – especially for a trilogy. There is a lot to find out about her. She has a compelling story. Her father has died, she’s angry, has issues withe her mother and she has the weight of the family on her shoulders. She’s trying to survive in a tough world with a lot of responsibility, but not a lot of adult support. The two joys in her life are her sister and the deep friendship that she shares with her fellow hunter, Gale. We slowly get to know more about her character and the experiences that have made her a bit sullen and somewhat withdrawn, and also her determination to fight for her life throughout the novel. It is so spell-binding as she is competing during the games, and I could hardly read and turn pages fast enough to see how she was going to get out of each deadly situation, and the twists and turns that she encountered.
I also like that that the book was peopled with others besides Katniss who are equally compelling, and whose stories you want to find out. Peeta Mellark is the other participant from Katniss’s district and their relationship is fraught with complexity as they work together to make the most of their drunken trainer, Haymitch. They do this even as they know that they will have to face off against each other at the end. The Hunger Games can only have one victor. Cinna plans the costumes and marketing/advertising strategy needed for both Katniss and Peeta to gain sponsors, and he has mysteriously chosen to work with this district specifically- though they have only managed to win the games once before.
Suzanne Collins does a great job in setting up the first book in the trilogy. Just enough questions in the story are answered to give a bit of satisfaction, but it’s only enough to leave you wondering and wanting more. No matter what it is you like to read, I would definitely recommend checking this series out.