There are times I wish I had gotten in on the ground floor of something big. I was late to the Harry Potter series as well as to the Song of Ice and Fire series (George R.R. Martin), although the latter takes so long to release new material, I am glad I was late. But I hope that at some point, I can be the one to tell people about an amazing book, and then watch the popularity soar. It would be like I helped it achieve great heights. Sadly, the streak of being late to the game continued with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (pun not intended).
I had been looking for a new book to read on my Kindle. I was perusing Amazon’s listings when I saw this one. I saw it had an absurd amount of positive reviews. I mentioned it to a co-worker, and instantly her face lit up. She urged me to get it, and I complied. I read it in less than a day. How could I not? People often use the phrase “I couldn’t put it down.” Well, I mean this very literally. I read non-stop, and once I was finished, my co-worker brought in the remaining two books of the series for me to polish off (I will talk about these at a later date).
Since this is a relatively new series, I will give a little back story for those who may not know much about these books. Panem is the dystopian society which has emerged from the remains of what was once the United States. It contains the Capital and the twelve districts that surround it. Sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen lives in the 12th, coal mining, district with her mother and younger sister, Prim. For as long as she can remember, the districts have bowed to the whim of the Capital, ever since the disasterous rebel war that ended up destroying District 13. As a condition of surrender, the remaining twelve districts must supply one boy and one girl each year to take part in the “Hunger Games,” a televised fight to the death. The contestants are chosen via lottery, where each child, ages 12 to 17, puts in their name. When Prim is selected as the female contestant, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Along with Peeta, the baker’s son, she competes in the spectacle that involves scheming, plotting, alliances, survival, and obviously, murder. Because the only way to survive is to win and be the last one standing.
Sound intense? Well, that’s because it is. And did I mention this book can be found in the Young Adult section?
The heroine, Katniss, is relatable. I could see myself reacting as she did, getting annoyed with her when she did stupid things, and crying when things just wouldn’t go her way. She is just the type of character you grow to care about, the type of character that makes a novel. She is inherently good: taking care of her family after the loss of her father and sacrificing herself for her sister, but she is flawed, just like all of us. I think she is the main reason this book is so appealing.
It isn’t as though the “royal rumble” hasn’t been done before, but the way Suzanne Collins tells the story is the reason this one is so special. There is a sense of urgency throughout the story, which is what makes it such a page turner. It is also an interesting twist that it is happening with teenagers. It might make you feel disgusted or horrified at the notion, but it is also what drags you in. It also makes you think. What kind of society would do this? One that wants to maintain control. And the best way to do that is through fear. It’s also a little humbling to realize they use Reality T.V. to assert that control.
Does it go without saying that I would recommend this book? Well, I’ll say it anyways. I recommend this book, and not just to the audience it was aimed at. Dystopian novels are fascinating in the way that it makes us look at our own society and wonder: could this really happen? This book has some mature themes, a lot of killing and death, so I would exercise some caution in offering it to someone younger than high school. And all the killing and death is not the only reason I would tell the older crowd to pick it up. It is a truly ingeniously written novel. And it is soon to be a movie!
There seem to be so many good “young adult” novels out there, and despite having read many of them, I seem to still keep them at arm’s length. I need to let go of the stigma of labels and just dive in to some new novels. Any suggestions?