Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games: Book 1Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 384

Source: Library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Summary (From back of book):

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

My Two Cents:

I was pretty late to the Hunger Games train, but I'd read the buzz about it on Twitter for months before I picked up the series. I'm big into dystopian literature, but I was a bit hesitant as to a young adult series involving a fight to the death. Just seemed a little too brutal for me.

Boy, I'm glad I finally picked up this trilogy.

Collins creates a world where people have just enough freedom to talk about how much they despise their government, but not enough that they can actually do anything about it. They all hate the Hunger Games and the controls the government puts on them. They all try to find small ways around the controls. But, they can't (Or don't) actively fight the Powers That Be. It's all pretty classic dystopian, but for some reason the people of Panem seem a little less settled into their world than the people of, say, 1984 or Brave New World.

Katniss was a great choice for a main character. She's got just enough fear of the Capitol to keep her in line, but she's openly rebellious (Which sets her up for later in the series), so her defiance during the Games doesn't come from nowhere. And while she's had to take care of her family for many years, she's still naive enough in a lot of ways to be a believable teenager. Collins strikes the right balance between making Katniss a strong hero and an inexperienced young girl.

A lot has been made by critics of the trilogy that it's too violent and disturbing to be marketed at young adults. They feel the concept of a people oppressed by their government is valuable, but that pitting teens against one another in a fight to the death is barbaric. I say it's a ridiculous criticism.

Literature's job is to make its readers think. In this case, Collins wants the reader to think about what life could be like if we allow the government to have too much control. While much of the traditional dystopian canon isn't so violent (1984, Brave New World), Collins shows that humans can resort to terrible things in order to keep control. These are important issues that a lot of adults don't even think about, and I believe that using young adult literature to get kids thinking about these possibilities early is commendable. I'd much prefer my teen reading a book that raises incredibly important, disturbing questions that lead to family discussion than if he or she read nothing but books about sports teams or mean girl cliques (Not saying these type of books are all bad, but there's a difference between books that are just there for entertainment and books that actually make a person think). The issues Collins brings up are ones that a lot of adult authors are afraid to broach, and I laud her for being gutsy enough to make her readers uncomfortable.

This is a book (Series, actually) that kept me up at night and held the need to do laundry at bay. I couldn't stop reading even though I felt sick to my stomach much of the time at the sheer barbarity of the words on the page. It got me thinking and talking, and one co-worker and a customer of mine have since read the trilogy and we still talk about it from time to time. This is, I think, one of those enduring works of young adult literature that everyone, young or old, needs to read at some point.


Ladybug said...

I agree, excellent series. Great review :)

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