The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Publisher: Scholastic Press on September 14, 2008
Genre(s): Dystopian (YA)
Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun... In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh 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 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 weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Life isn’t easy in District 12, but sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen does what little she can to keep her mother and sister fed and safe, including poaching outside the district fence, and then adding her name to the Hunger Games lottery multiple times in exchange for food when her meager hunting spoils aren’t enough. So when young Primrose Everdeen’s name is called out the very first time she’s in the drawing, Katniss does the only thing she can. She volunteers, taking her sister’s place in a deadly arena with two tributes from each district. Only one is allowed to return alive.
Leaving the only home she’s ever known with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark, Katniss travels to the glittering, colorful Capital, so different from her own dreary district. While those in District 12 toil in the coal mines, want for even the most basic necessities like food, and shuffle along through days blanketed in gray and despair, the Capital shines, its citizen decked out in wild fashions, feasting on delicacies, and gleefully looking forward to a group of teenagers being forced to kill or be killed in an arena filled with unimaginable hazards — and cameras to broadcast the “fun.”
But she’s up against people who’ve trained their whole lives to win the Games, not to mention a few who are far too young to be subjected to this kind of violence. And Peeta… they don’t really know each other, but he gave her food once when she had nothing, and he’s as much of a friend as anyone can be in a situation where you’re supposed to kill everyone else. How is she supposed to survive physically, much less emotionally, when the only way she can walk out with her life is to kill even him?
There’s an incredible sense of despair throughout the book, which while purposely there, can really drag a reader down. It’s not reason enough to avoid the story, but make sure you wait until you’re in the mood for angst and drama before picking this one up. But really the only thing I didn’t like about the story was Katniss’s distance from any positive emotions. She’s alternately angry and sad and depressed and resolved, but never is she truly happy. Again, it is absolutely necessary due to the nature of the story (not to mention the dystopian world in which she lives), but it’s a tough emotional read when everything is fear and loss and fighting for survival. Still, Katniss fights on in the face of almost certain death, so perhaps its that personal strength that I should be respecting instead.
Truly an incredible story. Dystopian isn’t my usual fare, though I dip in every now and then, but I’ve never read anything like this. Veronica Roth has created a world so different from our own, yet where inherent human flaws are brightly paralleled in both the Games and the people. The disparities in wealth, the shallowness of those living in the capital, the exploitation of the underprivileged, and the extreme lengths to which those in power will go to remain in control. It’s altogether fascinating and frightening, with a little love triangle thrown in for good measure. Because post apocalyptic or not, teenagers will always find someone to crush on.