There’s one book that people have been mentioning over and over after hearing about my Book Nerdist status and it’s The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Finally, I was a cool kid and gave in to peer pressure and picked it up. Sadly, I did not love it as much as everyone said I would, but! I didn’t hate it either. I only just finished the first book in the trilogy, so obviously I’ll only be giving my little opinion of that. Now, on to the description!
In it’s simplest form, The Hunger Games is a young adult book dealing in post-apocalyptic-esque America. Basically, everything the doomsday people are talking about happening in 2012? Yeah, it happened. Earthquakes, coasts disappearing, water rising — natural disasters aplenty. The survivors banded together to create Panem, a kind of capitol city in the mountains. Twelve districts (but there used to be 13) branched out from that and basically they exist to serve Panem. The districts produce useful things like gems, coal, fish and so on. It’s not pretty.
So, we meet our main character, Katniss, on reaping day. She’s sixteen and she lives in District 12 with her mother and sister, Prim. (Her father died in a mining accident.) District 12, like all of the other districts, is poor but it’s by far the most poor. It’s the mining district, the one that never stands at chance in The Hunger Games because the kids from there tend to be weakly and malnourished.
Oh, what are the Hunger Games, you ask? It’s reality TV on steroids. Like Survivor, except you have to kill people to win and it’s not really fair, per se, because the contestants are twenty four randomly picked children between the ages of 12 and 18. Kill or be killed. The games were designed, basically, to keep the districts in check after an uprising that failed. Miserably. I’m still not sure how one game show keeps the districts in check but, presumably, you’re supposed to feel like Big Brother is always watching and ready to snatch your children in it’s iron fist at the first sign of revolt… and there’s nothing you can do about it!
If you win the Hunger Games, you bring glory and food to your district and, essentially, you’re sitting pretty forever. When Prim gets picked to participate, Katniss steps in to take her place and reinforces her role as the provider in her family, as the “strong one”. The games start, lots of stuff happens but I don’t want to ruin anything for anybody planning to read the book still, so I won’t get too detailed!
Aside from a plot that really isn’t new, the book is enjoyable enough. It’s very Battle Royale-esque and it never leaves you with a happy, gooshy feeling on the inside or even like justice has been served. Granted, I’ve only read the first book, so I don’t know if it gets better in that respect or if the warm fuzzies come out eventually, but they’re pretty sparse here. It’s a downer… but in the same breath, it’s a stark representation of what the world could be if we let it get out of hand. A violent, ridiculous society where the rich profit terribly from the poor in a twisted hierarchy.
The story is narrated in the present tense by Katniss. I don’t love Katniss and this is based purely on menial reasons like her mentioning, in passing, that the cat at the beginning of the book didn’t like her because she’d tried to drown it once. Little things like that stick with me, personally, when reading into a character and Katniss is one tough chick, total Hunger Games material. She’s somebody you root for though, she’s not a bad person, just… uh, practical. Very practical.
Most of the chapters here end on notes that make you want to turn the page, even if you don’t REALLY want to turn the page, and the cliff hanger at the end is enough to keep you going toward the second book, even if you REALLY don’t want to. (But I really do!)
It’s odd that way. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it. To be fair, I think it was TOO hyped, people told me I’d love it and my expectations weren’t exactly met but it wasn’t a disappointment either. It’s violent but not terribly gory and it’s not terribly uplifting but it definitely makes you wonder about the direction of our society. (Not in a good way.)
So, I’ll update again after I’ve finished the last two books! I have a feeling I’ll enjoy them and DON’T RUIN IT FOR ME. Damnit.
Image: Scholastic Press