The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Katniss Everdeen is a survivor. She has to be; she's representing her District, number 12, in the 74th Hunger Games in the Capitol, the heart of Panem, a new land that rose from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic North America. To punish citizens for an early rebellion, the rulers require each district to provide one girl and one boy, 24 in all, to fight like gladiators in a futuristic arena. The event is broadcast like reality TV, and the winner returns with wealth for his or her district.
Wow. I absolutely loved this book, it’s been quite a journey! I have a secret passion for young adult fiction, and this did not disappoint in the slightest. There has been a great deal of hype surrounding this trilogy, which I must admit made me a bit cautious (after all, the last highly hyped young adult series was none other than the aggrandised Twilight), but it absolutely lived up to the glory.
I despise using the phrase "I couldn't put it down," but this was definitely the case. To describe my reading experience without using a clichéd phrase, I read through the novel in a perpetual state of anticipation, experiencing more adrenaline than I have for a while. I was so excited, and so invested in the characters and the story.
This is a dystopian future (dystopia being one of my favourite genres), and a delicious one at that. The subtle social commentary was interesting; the Capitol being the rich and affluent area, and the twelve districts living in abject poverty, circling the Capitol as though protecting it from harm. It dawned on me from time to time that the economics and politics of this arrangement didn't make much sense in the wider picture, but I couldn't really comment further on this having an utterly amateur mind on both. The world Collins has created is so interesting, however, and I loved reading about how America was divided into districts, the rebellion, and how the Games were created as a result of that. It's a believable future, which is always a scary thought in dystopian novels, but it's a gorgeous world to find yourself submerged in.
It's very dark and brutal. Although I didn't feel the violence was graphic at all, I did feel it to be very vicious, especially when considering the motives behind the actions, and that the actions were being made by very young people. The emotion invoked in me was unreal; I do get emotionally invested in my books, but I very rarely cry whilst reading. Apart from the constant heart-banging going on in my chest, I managed to break down and cry three times in the space of this novel. Three times, which completely ruined my heart of stone demeanour. Damn and blast.
Katniss Everdeen is a beautiful character. Her love for her family and her absolute determination to keep them alive is inspirational. Despite this lovely side to her, I particularly liked her savagery, her survival skills, and the plain fact that she is a complete bad ass. She is so strong and capable; she's quite the independent woman. I am a total wimp compared to her; I was moaning about being hungry the other day and then realised, "I would be atrocious in the Hunger Games." I did like Katniss's conflicting emotions throughout the Games, however, especially with regards to the two men in her life. Strong but confused makes her a lot more human, and a bit more relatable.
I did enjoy the characterisation in general, and with the description of lives in the districts I really managed to feel for all of them. I felt a lot in particular for the character of Haymitch; the previous District 12 winner of the Games. Although he was an alcoholic, and incredibly irritating and strange at the beginning of the novel, I think this was a reminder that the Games can mess you up entirely.
I like what Collins has done with the young adult novel, however. It is still apparent these days that young adult books are characterised into boy/girl areas. She has blown this out of the water by giving a female protagonist to a violent plot, forcing people to wonder whether this is a boy book or a girl book. It's both, as are all books (although this is a debate I won’t get into at the moment).
I must admit, I did find the ending incredibly anticlimactic, and I was disappointed. Since I was aware there are another two books to get through, I was expecting a cliff-hanger, something that says, "Oh, there's more to come," but nothing like this was given to me! Why?! I would've liked to see a reunion, however I imagine I shall see that at the beginning of Catching Fire. This is my only gripe.
I would recommend this to anyone. I was sucked in completely, left breathless, addicted, in tears, and then blown away entirely. If I was ever interrupted by the phone ringing, or something similar, whilst reading, I felt as though I had snapped out of a dream, asking myself, "Where am I?" What a world! You must read this immediately, and may the odds be ever in your favour.
1 / 50 books. 2% done!