From the author of the bestselling Underland Chronicles come the first in a brilliant new series that will change how you view your everyday life in more ways than you can count. Collins has taken a science fiction archetype – a doomed future world where everyone gets by, barely – with a certain cast of characters that sets off the readers emotions to unknown bounds.
North America. The future. Now known as Panem, it’s a changed world, the country divided into districts, each district with its own industrial focus – minding, farming, manufacturing. For the most part, many in the districts struggle to get by, struggle to survive. Our main character, Katniss Everdeen, is a sixteen-year-old girl who has spent her life helping her family – her mother and younger sister – hunting for food and scraps, fighting to keep them all alive. She is a teen beyond her years.
The annual event of the Hunger Games arrives: a stark reminder of how worse things could really be if the Capitol didn’t control the districts. A boy and a girl – between twelve and eighteen – are selected from each district and forced to participate in the Games. Katniss’s younger sister gets picked, and Katniss does what she’s always done: steps in front, volunteering in her sister’s place, saving her life. Then she is off to the Hunger Games.
In the style of The Running Man, it is a nationally televised event, akin to the gladiatorial games of Rome, with much pomp and circumstance. Twenty-four kids find themselves put into the “ring” – an unknown terrain that may or may not be habitable – and with the sound of a gong and the start of the games, they must fight each other to the death until one last child remains standing. The children find themselves under constant pressure, to survive in the environs, to defend themselves against each other, and if the viewers get bored, creatures may be released to keep them on their toes.
The Hunger Games is one of those books that could be shelved in the young adult section for its use of teen characters, or the science fiction section for its powerful storytelling of a future world with some undeniable and harsh similarities to our own, or the fiction section for is strong characters who deal with very human emotions while fighting each other to survive. This is strongest in Katniss, who knows how to hunt and fight for herself, but knows little of love and caring for those other than her family, and yet in the Hunger Games sometimes you must make allies to survive, at a cost, for eventually you will have to kill your ally.
The Hunger Games will have you on the edge of your seat, flipping the pages, but also wanting to read slowly and savor the incredible story, and at the end you’ll be somewhat annoyed by the abrupt ending. Have no fear, the sequel, Catching Fire, will be out September 1st, while Collins continues work on the third book in the series.
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Originally written on August 28th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.