Book blurb (from Good Reads)
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 with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place 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 will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Some books are best savoured slowly, reading a chapter every day on the commute to and from work, pondering all the possible directions the story might take. The Hunger Games is not one of those books. It is a book that needs to be devoured, preferably in one sitting. I started reading it on a Friday night, read late into the evening, woke up and continued reading on Saturday. I was actually annoyed that I had a birthday dinner for me and my dad that night, because all I wanted to do was keep reading. I finished it that Sunday, postponing things like doing the washing and the grocery shopping and writing my Sunday night blog post just so I could reach that final page.
Why is The Hunger Games so addictive? For me, it was the brutal-yet-fascinating plot. Quite frequently, I felt sick with anticipation and concern as I sped through the scenes, wondering how Katniss was going to escape alive. And as the story developed, I became attached to other characters competing in the Games – which just made it even worse. With only one competitor allowed to live, people I cared about were going to die no matter what – it doesn’t get any more gripping than that.
The writing style – first person, present tense – added to the immediacy of the story as you see every horrific event unfold in real time through Katniss’s eyes. You also get to hear her thoughts, which are often very different to the persona she portrays to the watchful cameras of the Capitol. I know a lot of people don’t like present tense, but I love it and felt it suited this story perfectly.
Katniss is one hell of a main character. She epitomises the word ‘heroine’, with her courage, perseverance and resourcefulness. But while I marvelled at her strengths, I was simultaneously shaking my head at her emotional ineptitude. This only served to make her more realistic – we all have flaws, and growing up as a provider and protector in such a brutal world would no doubt take a toll on your emotional capacity.
The Big Brother/reality TV element of this book was another compelling factor. For me, the ‘Games’ were like Survivor crossed with Gladiator – to the death, on live TV. The prospect both sickened and fascinated me, and made me stop and question the direction our world is taking. Already, many of us live a voyeuristic life and sometimes I hear comments about reality TV contestants that make me wonder if the person has forgotten they’re talking about a real human being. I don’t know where the trend towards reality TV will take us, but I truly hope (and thankfully doubt) it isn’t anything close to what’s presented in The Hunger Games.
Apart from Katniss, the two characters I connected with the most were Peeta (the male competitor from Katniss’s district) and Rue (the youngest contender in the Games). As a baker’s son, Peeta comes from a more privileged background than Katniss. As a result, he doesn’t have the same survival skills as she does, but his best asset is his pure heart. At twelve years old, Rue is easily the most vulnerable competitor but she has a hidden resourcefulness that was fascinating to discover. For fear of spoilers, I’m not going to say any more about either Peeta or Rue except that I truly enjoyed getting to know them.
The only criticisms I have of this book are quite minor. One of the supporting characters, Effie Trinket, came across as two-dimensional throughout the entire book, which is never a good thing. And… I would’ve liked more from the ending. I know, I know – it’s a trilogy. but still, I’d hoped we might’ve received just a little bit more closure at the end of the first book. The main problem with this lack of resolution is I’m now itching to see what happens in books two and three when I already have a pile of books eagerly awaiting my attention (not to mention my own manuscript!).
I have no doubt that I won’t be able to resist the pull of this series for long. I just hope that when I do pick up book two, it’s the first day of a long weekend so I can do nothing but read!
Have you read The Hunger Games? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you will? Andrew Leon of Strange Pegs commented that he’s only ever heard girls raving about this book (never guys), so if you’re a guy and you’ve read it, I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts!
My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable.).