After hearing countless times that I should try a certain series by Suzanne Collins, I finally gave in and read the first novel in the series: The Hunger Games. The increasing discussion and buzz surrounding this book as it is soon to become a movie made me interested in giving it a try. I’ll admit, I am already a big fan of dystopian sci-fi, so I already knew I’d be interested in this book; I was still seriously impressed by not only the scope of Collins’ writing but her ability to make a story that has so many layers and interesting character development.
Our story begins with a continent called Panem, located in what was formerly North America. Panem is comprised of 12 districts surrounding a central governing state, called the Capitol. 74 years before the start of the novel, a 13th district attempted a coup, which was subsequently put down and the district was destroyed. In light of this, every year an event called the Hunger Games is held by the Capitol to remind the remaining districts of this insurrection and punish them. In the games, a male and female teenager from each district, known as tributes, are chosen to battle each other to the death in an arena created by the Capitol. The sole remaining tribute is showered with praise and gifts, bringing temporary wealth and gifts such as food and luxury items to his or her district. The winner is also given a large home and is exempt from further participation in the games; the only caveat is that the winner must subsequently act as a mentor to all the other tributes chosen from his or her district in future games.
The novel is told from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old from district 12 who enjoys hunting in the woods surrounding her district and lives with her mother and younger sister, Prim. Although she lives in relative poverty and must hunt every day in order to support her family, Katniss enjoys the relative safety and quiet that the woods provides her. As the reaping (the yearly selection of Hunger Games tributes) occurs, Katniss does everything in her power to protect her younger sister from being chosen. Unfortunately Prim is selected despite her attempts, and Katniss is forced to throw herself into the games as a substitute for her sister. Terrified, Katniss must rise to the occasion and sharpen her survival skills enough to survive in the deadly arena. To top it off, her co-tribute is a classmate who she never really liked named Peeta, and their mentor is a drunk named Haymitch. Will Katniss be able to survive in the arena? Will she be able to get along with her team enough to prepare in time?
When I first heard about this novel, I had serious flashbacks to a movie named Battle Royale, a Japanese movie about a bunch of students sent to an island in a battle to the death. That movie was both the strangest and one of the most interesting movie’s I’ve ever seen, so I was interested to see how this book turned out. In short, it takes the brutality and frankness of that movie and turns it to a touching and amazing book that is definitely worth all the hype. The way in which Collins handles this bloody subject matter is quite good, telling us more about human nature and showing us what happens to relationships under stress rather than focusing on the killings themselves. Katniss learns more about herself and how much she means to others during the games than she would ever have known if she was never chosen for the games. Colllins’ character development is superb, making us learn more about ourselves and our own relationships with others through Katniss and her experiences in the arena. Katniss’ story is one of love, loss, bravery, survival, and defiance. Her struggle is representative of struggles we all go through ourselves, and we can learn a lot from her story. All in all, this novel was an amazing read. It made me think a lot more about myself and what is important to me. I definitely recommend it as a story of survival and defiance that will make you excited to dive into the rest of the series.
5 out of 5 Stars