Saturday, March 21, 2009

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

Summary: In a post-United States world, the Capitol rules its twelve outlying districts with a firm hand, especially since the rebellion (which was harshly squashed) of the thirteenth district some seventy years before. In the poorest and least respected district twelve, Katniss feeds her mother and sister by sneaking outside her district’s borders to hunt with her friend Gale. Once a year, for entertainment and to remind the districts of the Capitol’s strength, the Capitol holds a lottery where one girl and one boy from each district are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games—a fight to the death where only one person leaves victorious and alive. When Katniss’ sister is chosen, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. Katniss, along with the boy contender from district twelve, Peeta, try to stay alive in the deadly Games.

Musings: This is the new young adult novel I had been looking for. I absolutely loved this book and finished it rapidly in one sitting. Although parts of the story have certainly been done before (a particular nod, I think, to the well-known short story “The Lottery”), Collins has created a unique world with a unique cast of characters. In writing of Abarat, I complained that Barker engineered a world with no “rules,” which made it a less satisfying universe in which to inhabit as a reader. Collins, on the other hand, has created a believable society that vaguely resembles our own (clearly our penchant for reality TV has not diminished), but is also very different in many ways.

Katniss is a somewhat stupid name, but I thoroughly enjoyed her character. She is smart and aggressive, but because she has been tuned to “survival mode” for so long, she is also much slower to pick up on personal relationships. Her relationships with both Gale (only present in the very beginning) and Peeta are complicated and added an unexpected twist and difficulty throughout the book.

I had read in some review that The Hunger Games was excessively violent for a young adult novel, but I didn’t find that the case at all. The novel certainly does concern young people trying to kill each other, and there are many deaths, but it is not written about in a grisly fashion.

The novel has a quick pace and a lot of action. I wasn’t at all surprised to hear it is being turned into a movie. The novel ends with a large cliffhanger and not the sort of happy ending I had expected. Again, I found myself beginning a book before I learned it was part of a planned trilogy, so now I will have to wait until September to read the next installment.

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