Friday, August 15, 2014

Weekly Book Review: The Hunger Games

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Released: September 14, 2008
Genre: Sci-Fi / Young Adult


The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.


It's easy to see why The Hunger Games became such a phenomenon. Mixing an interesting idea with decent world-building and a whole lot of tension, The Hunger Games is a gripping read that pulls its audience in with a disturbing premise and keeps them hooked through swiftly escalating action. Its prose serves more to propel the reader through the plot than compel further reading through its own merits. The Hunger Games is a thing of short, clipped sentences and light description, favoring action over moments of thought or observation. Whether that's good or bad is up to your tastes. For me, the prose wasn't bothersome, but it certainly wouldn't have been enough of a draw to keep me reading without Collins' tight plotting.

The Hunger Games sets itself apart from many YA dystopias in that it presents a somewhat believable setting. We have a clear catalyst for the division of the districts and a historical explanation for the Hunger Games themselves. There are a few details that don't quite gel with reality, but I'd wager only the most demanding readers will find fault with novel's presentation of the world until after they've blown through it.

My biggest quibble with The Hunger Games and all of its sequels (especially its sequels) is that it falls into the common YA trap of saddling its heroine with a love triangle made up of two dudes who are both unappealing in their own special ways. Gale doesn't quite breach jerk territory until the next book, but he's also such a non-character in The Hunger Games that it's likely his inner jerkitude was simply biding its time. Peeta, on the other hand, is omnipresent. He somehow manages to be both the unwelcomely (and unnecessarily) protective boyfriend (despite Katniss' disinterest in the relationship except as it relates to their survival) and the damsel in distress at the same time. His presence is annoying, often dragging the excitement down as Katniss must break away from the action and her own developing plans to babysit him. His meagre personality isn't a good match for Katniss', and his strange obsession with her borders on creepy more often than it should.

The romance is, however, responsible for some of the best tactical moments in The Hunger Games, and for that, it can be partially excused. I can only wish Katniss were attached to a more interesting boy.

Like Tom Hiddleston.

Among dystopian YA, The Hunger Games is one of the best. There's a reason it let loose such a trend. Fans of dystopian YA, as well as YA in general, should give it a read, if only to see what all the fuss is about.

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