Book Talk: The Hunger Games

After Harry Potter and Twilight, this novel by Suzanne Collins steps into the spotlight with its own movie adaptation.  I heard about the novel nearly two years ago from people often saying one thing, “It’s so much better than Twilight.”  (Post on Twilight coming soon.)  I finally had the chance to pick up the book and found myself pulled into its story much the same way Harry Potter grabbed me and didn’t let go.

The Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teen supporting her family through wild game and bartering skills in District 12.  District 12 is part of Panem, a country formerly known as North American with its city centre known only as ‘The Capital’.  Every year one girl and one boy, from each of the 12 districts, has their name drawn to participate in the annual ‘Hunger Games’.  Think the environmental factors of Survivor, but people go beyond talking about killing each other.  (Personally The Bachelor would be much more truthful if they go to a Hunger Games format, but I digress.)  Who will win? Will the victor still have their humanity in tact?

Much like J.K. Rowling,  Suzanne Collins can craft a good story.  The novel itself came from the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur with a little reality TV thrown in.  Collins explains Panem and the games without overdoing it, and the detail reflects a well-constructed dystopian world.  Katniss herself feels more real to me than Bella Swan.  (Remember that post is coming later.)  While the setting is fantastical,  the emotions surrounding a fellow tribute feels as real as a high school romance.  She is sure with a bow and awkward with feelings and the interior narration also sees a character begin to emerge from a personal hobbit hole to take on a much greater cause.  I read a lot of novels with a first person view and Collins shows the care in crafting a balance between narration and character.  We know what Katniss knows and we share in her mistakes as she makes them in her own journey.

People will definitely have issues with the violence in the novel.  Children enter the draw at age 12 and one tribute is that age.  Why depict violence?  Why drag someone so young through that?  I would never recommend a novel for someone that age, even if they read above that level.  While the novel has a romantic bent to it, the harsh reality Katniss encounters in her life are not air bushed.  The deaths are brutal without numbing a reader.  Collins comes up with some surprising demises for some characters, completing catching me as a reader off guard.  As an adult reader I can see parallels between tributes and child solders.  These kids are killers and Collins does not flinch at the fact.  The novel also explores what taking a life does to a person.  People may want to keep it out of young hands, but we read not to conform to our lives but to broaden it.  I plan not to fight to the death per say, but well-written novels allow us to step in and see the setting in its entirety.

The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy and I planned to space the novels out.  However, Suzanne Collins managed to write an ending completing one plot, while leaving me debating how soon I put down the next  book to step back into Panem for Catching Fire.  (Answer:  Barely a chapter.)


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