The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, is fiction in the young adult genre, which is not my age group, but I found myself unable to put it down. Its combination of nerve-racking tension, thrilling action, and engaging love story kept me up until the wee hours. I was surprised at how completely engrossing the plot was. Like Brave New World, this story is set in a future where the government oppresses its people, but the book also borrows ideas from the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
When the book opens, North America as we know it has been destroyed and is now divided into 12 districts, ruled by an oppressive government located at the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, takes her younger sister’s place as one of 24 “tributes” selected every year to participate in the Hunger Games at the Capitol.
The Games pit children from ages 12 to 18 against each other in a fight to the death in a giant, treacherous arena. Everything is televised and highly publicized all over the country. Katniss must not only survive the Games, but deal with a romance between her and another tribute from District 12, all the while deciding if she is willing to kill strangers her own age as a pawn of an oppressive government.
The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy, and it was released in 2008. I wish I had known it was a trilogy before I finished the book, because then I would have been prepared for the ending, which was a transition into the next book rather than a totally satisfying end. The third and final installation of the series came out in August 2010. Suzanne Collins, the author, worked for Nickelodeon and wrote The Overlander before she wrote The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games won several awards and was a New York Times bestseller. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.
The Games provided a backdrop to one of the most enthralling plots I have ever read. Katniss constantly battles thirst, fire, hunger, wild animals, injuries, and other teenagers for survival. She makes and loses friends, and I became so attached to her and her fellow tribute from District 12 that I was dying to find out how the book ended. While the plot is mainly what drives this book, the creativity of this future world and the concept of the Games also impressed me. In addition, the characters are all very strong and exhibit character development throughout the book.
While I found this book absolutely enthralling, I was surprised it was aimed at an audience of young adults. It seems extremely intense for anyone younger than 16 or 17. For example, there is a scene where one young tribute is slowly eaten alive by wolf-like creatures all night long, and Katniss has to finally throw a weapon at him to end his misery. I found this a little too disturbing when I considered the age of the character.
The intensity of the action was something one would find in a more mature book, but the age of the characters and the simplicity of the prose were aimed at a much younger audience. In addition, this book was written in present tense, which I found annoying, but that’s more of a personal preference than a stylistic fault. It was also edited somewhat poorly, but that rarely distracted from the plot. For example, the author often spoke in sentence fragments to describe how Katniss felt, which might have been an attempt to reflect on her thought process, but I found it disorienting to read a lot of really short sentences all together. It would have been better to vary the sentence length on occasion, but the story was still coherently.
Overall, The Hunger Games was an excellent, enthralling read that I highly recommend. If it was more clearly marked for older teens, it would have been better, but it was a fantastic book with a wonderfully creative plot.Powered by Sidelines