Friday, July 22, 2011
Praise for "The Hunger Games," Book 1: The Hunger Games
Collins introduces us to 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, an avid hunter, from District 12, the coal mining district. Katniss' father died several years prior in a coal mining accident, which sent her mother into a state of depression and left her nearly catatonic. Consequently, Katniss has assumed the role of leader of the house, hunting and providing for her family along with her best friend and potential love interest, Gale, trading her game at the Seam (their equivalent of a black market) - both illegal acts - and receiving tesserae, a measly grain that is delivered to her family monthly at a grave price. For each tesserae year Katniss receives tesserae, her name is entered into the tribute lottery.
Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's disturbing and remarkable story, The Lottery, all districts except the Capitol must supply two tributes to compete in The Hunger Games. When her 12-year-old sister Prim's name is picked for the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss, fiercely protective, assumes her place. When she discovers that the other tribute is none other than Peeta Mellark, a boy to whom Katniss believes she owes her life, the head games begin.
Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol where a team of stylists polishes and costumes them, creating Katniss' persona: the girl who was on fire. Their mentor, Haymitch, the only tribute from District 12 to ever win a Hunger Game, uses a strategy where her presents Katniss and Peeta as lovers. Peeta, we discover, is genuine, while Katniss is simply a confused girl, fighting for her life. Regardless, the Capitol - supporters of the Hunger Games - absolutely eat up this arrangement.
In the arena there can only be one victor. Everyone must fight to the death or risk being overtaken by myriad vicious and dangerous ploys that the Gamemakers create. The arenas vary from year to year, and always present new challenges so as to keep the audiences, who watch either because they have to or because they enjoy it, entertained. Life in the arena is about as far from normal as possible, yet remains a horrifying reality for the 24 tributes forced inside. Muttations - mutated creatures with gruesome powers - natural disasters, and numerous mind games wreak havoc with the contestants, and we become consumed with Katniss' inner turmoil: Peeta or Gale? Will her mother and sister survive without her? What is it like to kill a human? If she survives, how will she get past it?
Defying all odds, Katniss and Peeta become Panem's sweethearts - the William and Kate of their day. Using this newfound celebrity, they outsmart the Gamemakers, but leave the door wide open for future personal drama, which we certainly find in book 2, Catching Fire.
Collins weaves a deranged commentary on class, race, and love that leaves us wanting to turn the pages. Despite The Hunger Games being classed as Young Adult Fiction (YAF), this tale is surprisingly adult in its premise. This reviewer would recommend knowing the young adult who chooses to read this book and also recommends that parents read along, because there are numerous graphic images and difficult situations. All in all: 4.5/5 stars.
Pros: Readability. Plot. Psychologically disturbing. Well-developed characters. Excellent analogy to present social problems.
Cons: The apparently required love triangle present in YAF. Time switch can be unsettling.