title: The Hunger Games
author: Suzanne Collins
how I read it: book that I bought
Imagine a distant future where 24 young teens are sent to fight to the death every year. The Hunger Games - designed to control the provinces of Panem by reminding them that rebellion is futile - pits kid against kid with only two possible results: death for 23, glory and riches for one.
Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She grew up in poverty and hunger, providing for her mother and younger sister by illegally hunting in the woods outside District 12, a punishable offense. When she is chosen for the Games, she is whisked away from her family and dumped in the capital, a bewildering world of excess and media frenzy, before being sent to kill - or die - in the Games.
While the whole "force kids to kill each other to quell rebellion" strategy is iffy at best, the story itself is beyond compelling and it's very easy to just accept it at face value. Katniss is a strong, interesting, flawed character who changes and grows throughout the book. Sometimes you just want to shake her because she doesn't "get" things, but that somehow makes her all the more likeable. I found myself rooting for Katniss; I wanted her to survive, win, live. Other characters in the book are equally interesting and three-dimensional. I liked both Peeta and Gale, even if they did form two corners of the obligatory which-boy-should-I-pick love triangle that every teen fantasy or science fiction seems to have. And Rue - tiny, strong, tragic Rue - how could anyone not want to gather her up in their arms?
The idea behind The Hunger Games is not new. There are hints of Stephen King's The Running Man and The Long Walk, Koushun Takami's Battle Royale, Mad Max and a whole lot of reality TV. The nod to reality TV may have been the most fascinating part of this book for me. Reading about soon-to-be-dead kids being primped and prettied for the camera made me squirm a little bit. OK, this is different from Survivor or Big Brother - no one dies on those shows, after all - but there's this sense of voyeurism in the book that has uncomfortable parallels to the reality television that is so popular today.
The Games themselves are filled with harrowing and suspenseful scenes that stayed with me long after I read the book. After turning the last page, I honestly felt as though the words "brutal" and "violent" were created solely to define this book. You will find that some of its bloody, graphic scenes will be etched upon your brain. While I know that there's an inevitable movie version in the making, I stopped several times while reading to think "I hope that they never turn this into a movie". Kid-on-kid violence and murder would be really hard for me to stomach. I can only hope that the film won't be as graphic as the book.
This book made me want to: turn off America's Next Top Model and practice climbing trees
Verdict: Loved. It. One of the most compelling can't-put-it-down books that I've read in a very long time.
Sequels: Catching Fire, Mockingjay