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The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins


The first volume in the series The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games are an annual event in Panem. Each year, a boy and a girl from each of the twelve districts – the “tributes” - are chosen to go to The Capitol and compete against each other in a survival deathmatch. The final boy or girl becomes a hero and brings honor to his or her district. The competitors are chosen by a lottery, and it is mandatory for everyone between the ages of twelve and eighteen to enter. Katniss Everdeen, of District 12, volunteers to become a tribute when her younger sister Primrose is selected by the lottery. The male tribute for District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy who once gave Katniss bread from his family's bakery when she was starving. As the myriad preparations for the Hunger Games begin, Katniss and Peeta train and work on their strategies. The twenty-four tributes are dressed up in fanciful costumes, interviewed by celebrities and treated like star athletes in the days before they enter the arena. Katniss struggles to connect with the audience, but Peeta performs brilliantly – by declaring his long-hidden love for Katniss! The arena, where the Games take place, is no place for romance, but Katniss wonders if playing up the role of “star-crossed lovers”will give her the edge she needs to survive the Hunger Games.

As I was reading this, I was strongly reminded of Battle Royale, a Japanese novel/film/manga series with very similar themes. A quick glance around the blogosphere makes it clear that I'm not the first person to make the connection between the two novels. I 'm a fan of both stories, and there are enough differences in the characters, and how the worlds are constructed, that I believe Collins when she says that she had not encountered the Japanese book before writing Katniss' story.

Katniss is a fascinating heroine. While she's brave and noble, Katniss is not always what you could call a good person. Sure, she'll work hard to protect a fellow contestant because the girl happens to remind Katniss of her younger sister. But Katniss is also not above manipulating the emotions of a boy in love with her, or calculating how to win the hearts of the audience in order to score gifts that will help her survive. She's not a pure heroine of the Disney princess variety. She's darker, colder, perhaps a bit crueler...but infinitely more interesting for it.

The other tributes are a mixed bag. Some of them are killed off so quickly, or get so little page time, that it's hard to care for them one way or the other. It is easier to by sympathetic to the tributes from poorer districts, like Katniss, rather than the tributes from the wealthy districts who strut about like Olympic athletes. It's also an interesting cultural comparison: the tributes from District 1 and 2 are trained from a very young age for combat in the arena, and it is considered an honor to compete. The tributes from the outer districts, like Katniss, would do virtually anything to avoid ending up in the arena. To them, it is hell.

Although the end of this book is left open-ended to lead into a sequel, I thought that the story can end with this first volume. (This may be a very good thing, as a couple of friends have advised that the quality of the second and third book simply do not compare to this one.) It feels very complete, even if some questions about The Capitol and how the districts came to be are left unanswered.

4 out of 5 stars


To read more about The Hunger Games, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.




Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
2010: Captivity by Deborah Noyes
2009: Random Ranting: Why is it so hard to find a good place to read?
2008: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield

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