The North America of the future is not a world you would recognize…or a world you would want to live in, for that matter. Panem, as the continent is now called, is ruled by the ruthless Capitol. As punishment for a rebellion decades earlier, the other twelve districts of Panem are required to send a teen boy and girl to the yearly Hunger Games in which the kids are then required to fight each other to the death in a reality show that sounds like Survivor meets The Coliseum. The kids are selected by lots, so sixteen year old Katniss, who is solely responsible for keeping her mother and sister alive, is relieved when she is not selected. Her momentary relief turns to terror when her beloved sister is chosen to go to The Hunger Games. Desperate to spare her sister, Katniss volunteers. The other contestants may think that Katniss is at a disadvantage, coming from the most squalid district in Panem, but they have another thing coming…
Laura suggested this book to me last month, and I only now got my hands on it. (*glares at library wait list*) I absolutely loved this book! (Thanks again, Laura!) The Hunger Games is an incredibly original book. I've never read anything quite like it, but it reminded me of so many different books and themes: Lord of the Flies, Frank Peretti’s Veritas Project series, dystopian sci fi, the Minotaur myth, reality TV at its worst (is there such a thing as it at its best?), Soviet era Russia. This book’s primary strength is Katniss. She is just so likable and easy to sympathize with. She is no mamby-pamby Bella "Rescue me! I have a paper cut!" Swan, but she’s also not one of those obnoxious tough guy, er, girl characters that makes you want to vomit. The story is told in Katniss’ distinctive, ironic, witty voice, and the narration is also in the present tense, which greatly adds to the suspense. And suspenseful this plot certainly is! I started this book one Friday night when I had finished all of my homework. I figured I would get a headstart on my reading for the week. I didn’t stop until I finished it in the wee hours of Saturday morning – this book is that addictive.
Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Zella, brag on that book all you want. It sounds like a slasher movie!” I know it sounds that way, but I promise you, it isn’t. Yes, The Hunger Games is built upon a gruesome, disturbing premise, but the book itself is not gruesome, although it is a bit disturbing. Collins does a masterful job of conveying what is happening with out being unduly graphic. (It is a YA book, after all.) Besides, I think there is a huge difference between something that wallows in the dark recesses of the human mind to celebrate it and something that delves into the dark recesses of the human mind to make a serious statement about that side of human nature. The Hunger Games is definitely the latter. This book is actually very philosophical, without being ponderous. I really loved how this book subtly attacks reality TV. I hope I don't hurt any feelings, but I hate reality TV. I think it is the most unreal, disgusting thing on TV. I despise the way Survivor, Big Brother, and I am a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! condone despicable behavior in the name of entertainment. Yeah, pal, that is not entertainment, at least not in my book. The Hunger Games very effectively portrays reality TV, with its emphasis on ruthlessness and appearance, for what it really is – shallow.
I have learned that modern YA fiction falls into two categories: really good and really bad. Put The Hunger Games in the first category. It is well-written and absolutely impossible to put down. But be warned: This book is part of a series. The cliffhanger ending will both intrigue and anger you (in an "Arggh! I have to know the rest of the story!" sort of way), especially at 2am. If you read The Hunger Games, you will end up hunting down the second novel in the series, Catching Fire!
P.S. Thanks for all of the excellent recommendations! I am happy to know that all of my readers have such great taste in books! I am also going to blog on Ayn Rand's Anthem (suggested by Math is a Plentiful Harvest) and Something Wicked This Way Comes and 1984 (both suggested by Rebecca on her excellent blog Readers Anonymous.) Please send me more recommendations!
Next Week: Part Two of Zella Kate Presents: The Medieval/Renaissance Epics - Dante's Inferno. (I was planning to blog on another book, but I am reading three or four right now and can't make up my mind. I am a book glutton. I pile too much on my proverbial plate and then must consume everything on said plate. Not unlike my behavior at Chinese restaurants!)