From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins has been on my "to read" list for a long time, but the waiting list at my local library was crazy. Then, an article in The Wall Street Journal told the ending (along with the endings of three other books I wanted to read) without spoiler warnings. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it anymore, so I dropped it to the bottom of my list. Finally, I gave in. And I'm glad I did!

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Acclaimed writer Suzanne Collins, author of The New York Times bestselling Underland Chronicles, delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.


I started reading The Hunger Games Sunday night during the Yankees/Red Sox game. The game was super-exciting, so I only made it through fifty pages.

I plowed through the rest of the book Monday night. I was struggling with a wicked bout of insomnia (a time when I do my best marathon reading), but this was the type of book that I would have mainlined caffeine and propped my eyes open to finish. I couldn't stop reading!

Katniss is a survivor. She has no choice. When she was only eleven years old, her father died in a coal mining accident, forcing her to take care of her despondent mom and seven-year-old sister. If she didn't, they would have starved to death.

It was then that she began sneaking into the forbidden woods outside District 12 to forage for food.

Now, at age sixteen, she is an old pro. She and her friend Gale, an eighteen-year-old boy who, like Katniss, is single-handedly taking care of his family, hunt game and gather greens, roots, and berries. Sometimes, this is their only source of food. More often than not, they make trades with local merchants for necessities like shoelaces and wool.

Katniss is resourceful.

She is a skilled hunter, the bow and arrow her weapon of choice.

More importantly, she knows real hunger.

Now twelve years old, her sister, Prim, is called to represent District 12 in The Hunger Games. Katniss is shocked and offers to take her place in the Games. Soon she, and the other tribute from District 12, a boy named Peeta, are on a train heading to The Capitol to prepare, compete, and inevitably die.

But Katniss stands out from the crowd and becomes a favorite to win, something that's rare for a tribute from her District (they've only had two winners in the Game's seventy-four year history).

Katniss, Peeta, and the twenty-two other tributes are "imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena" to not only survive but fight one another to death. All on live television. The last person standing--the only one to survive--wins.

Part-Suvivor-part-Lord-of-the-Flies, The Hunger Games is a fascinating story of government control, survival, friendship, alliances, death, and, strangely enough, love. It wasn't easy to read the realistic descriptions of murder, knowing kids were involved and that people were watching it all unfold on television (making bets and enjoying this harsh reality show). But, at the same time, I couldn't help but love Katniss and cheer for her (a testament to the fact that even the most adamant reality television hater can get sucked into the fray).

I really cannot wait to read Book Two.

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