Friday, February 28, 2014

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

What better way to kick off my literary journey through 100 books than with a book that everyone has been talking about lately - The Hunger Games.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you have heard of this best-selling novel. Love it or hate it - The Hunger Games has achieved super stardom in the book world. Even though the novel's target audience is young adults, it has captured the attention of everyone from tweens to major Hollywood producers.
Now - I don't want you to misunderstand my enthusiasm as we go through this post. I definitely did not jump on the Katniss bandwagon when it first hit the shelves. Honestly, I did the Twilight thing and was a bit concerned that people may start questioning my literary eye if I continued reading these trendy Tween trilogies. But, after many of my friends insisted that I read it and that I would LOVE it - OMG - I picked up the first book. And I was hooked.
This dystopian novel takes place in Panem, which is a collection of 12 fenced-in districts that all exist simply to serve the wealthy, technologically advanced, power-hungry Captial. The heroine of the story is Katniss Everdeen. She is a closely guarded yet opinionated teen who expertly wields a bow and arrow thanks to the teachings of her late father. Katniss spends her days hunting illegally outside the fence of District 12 in order to help support her distant mother and baby sister, Prim. A seemingly familiar dystopian setting, but noble nonetheless.
As an annual reminder of their control over the Districts, the Capital conducts the Hunger Games. Each District is required to send 1 boy and 1 girl (chosen by random drawing) to the games where they will fight tributes from the other Districts - to the death. While this is a fairly grim idea - it truly sends a powerful political statement to the audience. The entirety of the Games is televised throughout the Districts and everyone is required by law to watch.
Collins then transports you into the violent arena of the Hunger Games where nothing is off limits. The Gamemakers control every piece of the arena from weather, to food and crazy mutated animals. The story definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat in terms of action but some of the more truly "young adult" themes come alive during this part of the story and it lost me a bit. I found much of the romance that develops between Katniss and Peeta cliche but in all fairness, it should pass of perfectly well for the intended, younger audience. It was interesting though to read about this relatively forced, one-sided teenage love from an adult perspective and try to remember what those days were like. I swear I was never like either of the two in this story though.
I know many people found it difficult to get past the idea of children fighting to the death and it prevented them from picking up this book. While it is gruesome and violent and somewhat hard to stomach in parts, the story really hits on some tough and eye-opening political themes that those of us living in America today could eerily relate to. If you can move past the violence, you are in for a real action-packed, well paced read that will leave you scrambling to pick up the second book.
This review comes after my second reading of this story and I can say that it really still was just as good as the first time I picked it up. And I really wouldn't be surprised if I pick it up again somewhere down the line.
Rating: 9 out of 10 - Excellent

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