Imagine a post apocalyptic world where no one is safe from governmental control, least of all children. This is Panem, Suzanne Collins’ creative world in The Hunger Games. Panem is made up of thirteen districts and one capital city in what used to be known as North America. The capital controls all of the districts and doesn’t allow for there to be any mingling outside of one’s own district. Each of the districts are responsible for one characteristic of survival: agriculture, mining, fishing, textiles, electronics, etc. 74 years prior to the start of the book, the thirteen districts joined together and formed a rebellion against the capital. Unfortunately, they did not win, and as punishment the thirteenth district was completely destroyed and the Hunger Games were instituted. It is these games and the districts’ unhappiness with the capital that mark the major plot points of the Hunger Games trilogy.
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are about to have their lives completely changed. They are District 12’s tributes for the 74th Hunger Games. Each year as a reminder that the districts are at the mercy of the capital, they are forced to send a male and female child as tributes to fight in a battle to the death. Over the course of several weeks the 24 children, aged twelve to eighteen, fight to the death in a man-made arena filled with all kinds of traps and wild animals that can either help or hurt them. Only one teen can win and return back to their home district to live a life of wealth and fame. Each tribute is given a mentor, a previous Hunger Games winner from their district that will help them strategize and coordinate their sponsorship gifts. These gifts can be the key to winning or losing the games, so it’s a bit of a shock to Katniss and Peeta when they are introduced to their mentor Haymitch, a thirty something drunk who can barely keep himself upright. Katniss and Peeta realize if they are going to have any chance at winning the games they need to get Haymitch sober. They succeed in helping him drink a bit less and are informed by their team that they are to appear as though they are partners in everything. During the interview rounds Peeta reveals that he’s been in love with Katniss, his entire life. This comes as a complete shock to Katniss and is the reason that makes the crowd fall head over heels in love with them. The two try to use their “love story” as strategy in the games which causes Katniss to become very unsure of whether or not Peeta really loves her and what her true feelings are for Peeta. This creates a lot of uneasiness for her, and as the games continue her feelings become more clouded. She wonders how she’ll act if the time comes for her to kill Peeta. Will she find that she’s fallen in love with Peeta, or will she have to kill him for her own survival?
The book is also filled with hauntingly realistic and relatable characters, most specifically Peeta and Katniss. Katniss is a bit hardened from her life in District 12. Her father died in a mining accident when she was younger and she has been forced to take care of her sister and mother since then. Due to their financial difficulties Katniss takes to hunting illegally to make ends meet. Peeta on the other hand lives in the merchant area of District 12 above his family’s bakery. He’s good-looking, strong, and hasn’t lived a life as rough as Katniss’. The two characters work so perfectly together especially during their “star-crossed” lover moments. The inner turmoil that Katniss goes through is so realistic that at times the reader is confused as to her true feelings.
I also wanted to make a note that when some people read the summary of the book they might be deterred to read because of the talk of violence. I just want to state that even though there are a lot of deaths, Collins writes them in a way that doesn’t deter you from wanting to read the rest of the book. They aren’t overly graphic and are done in a tasteful and respective manner.
The Hunger Games was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. It’s loaded with symbolism and heavy themes that hit close to home; government control, independence, sacrifice, interdependence, survival of the fittest, unrequited love, etc. They are themes that we can all relate to considering the political world we live in. I would highly recommend this book for any age, as there is much to learn from the characters, themes, and circumstances in the novel. Collins is challenging us as readers to look beyond the fact that it’s a fictitious novel and see the relevant meaning in her work in relation to the world today.
5 out of 5 Stars