Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a dystopian YA novel written by Suzanne Collins.  I have to be honest, when my friends first started talking up the Hunger Games I googled the books (this was before the third book, Mockingjay, was released).  It basically said: a book series about kids fighting each other to the death for sport.  So I thought: "O....kay.... not going to be my thing.  I threw up reading Lord of the Flies.  And I cry when I watch Snoopy Come Home.  I'm not going to read these."  I put it off and put it off.  I stumbled across The Hob, a great fansite run by some awesome girls.  I looked into the books a little more.  I must have been reading something completely stupid because I got the feeling that Peeta was the bad guy and Gale was someone good and that Katniss is this awesome girl who is perfect.  Yeah- so not even close.  (This is why you should never quote the internet in your research papers, kids!)  Then about two months ago, one of my mom friends convinced me to read them and even loaned me her books.  (Shipped them from Florida for me too!)  Then a couple days ago, I finally got a break from my "Needs to be read NOW" list and I picked up the Hunger Games to read while I waited for a meeting with my son's preschool teacher.  Before I'd finished the first page, I was HOOKED.  In the first day, I read the first two books then I forced myself not to pick up Mockingjay right away but to let the first two books stew for a while.  So, now that I have FINALLY read these books- I want to do them justice in review.  Also, I have a feeling that this review will be spoilery.  Sorry.  I have illustrated with fan art from deviant art.  I will list the artists at the end of the review and you can visit their deviant art site by clicking on the pictures.

Artwork by Bleunite

The reality of the Hunger Games (Book 1) is a world that is hard for us to fathom.  The Hunger Games themselves exist as a way for the government, The Capitol, to keep the 12 Districts in line.  Every year, there is the reaping event in each of the districts where the eligible children's names are put into huge glass balls and one boy and one girl from each district will go to the capitol as tributes to be in the games.  Some kids, like Katniss and her friend Gale, have their names in the drawing more than once.  This is because each child of age (from 12 to 18) can purchase tesserae (oil and grain) for each person in their family if they want.  This means that when Katniss turned twelve, her name was put in the bowl 4 times: once because it is required, once for food for her mom, once for food for her sister and once for food for her.  When you factor in that the tesserae are cumulative, Katniss has 20 entries in the drawing when she turns sixteen.  Her friend, Gale, has 40 and her younger sister, Prim, has 1.  So, really it is shocking when they pull the girl's name and it is Prim.  Katniss immediately jumps in, volunteering to go in her sister's place.  When the boy's name is pulled it is Peeta Mellark, a boy that Katniss has a history with even though they have never really spoken.  The two of them are sent to the Capitol where they are prepped and polished and put through training, interviews and ceremonies before they are taken to the arena where the games will be fought.  It is then up to them to fight their way through the competition and the last tribute standing is the victor. 

Artwork by Aleatoire09
 Now, I know it makes you wonder, what is up with the whole Team Peeta vs Team Gale thing?  How is there a love triangle in a book about a no holds barred fight to the death?  Well, Gale is the best friend and Peeta is the boy she has to work with who has a secret.  Katniss doesn't realize that Gale has feelings for her until much later in the story but the reader gets a tiny sneak peek. Peeta ... well, Peeta announces his love for her to the nation during his televised interview and Katniss seems determined to believe that it is all made up- just a stunt to give them audience appeal.  But as a reader, you start to question that long before she does. 

The thing about Peeta that I love is that he is persistent and true.  He wants to keep her alive and he works hard at it.  It honestly annoys me that Katniss doesn't realize that she has fallen for him sooner.  But I am going to let her slide on that one because they are fighting for their lives.  Peeta is an amazing character who just does not get enough props in Hunger Games.  He's fiercely loyal to Katniss- no matter how she treats him.  Peeta is ALWAYS there when she needs him.  He always seems to know right from wrong and he is a brilliant spokesperson for "Team District Twelve".  I feel AWFUL for him as we watch Katniss "play to the cameras" because he really believes that he is getting through to her.  What 16 year old girl wouldn't fall for Peeta?!   Most importantly, you never feel like he is fighting to get back home to his family and the bakery.  He is always fighting to get Katniss home to her family.  (If you haven't gotten the hint- I am totally Team Peeta.)

This book was a wild and emotional ride through a world that I hope never comes to be.  It's not merely about kids killing one another.  It's about love, family, right and wrong, choices and consequences, politics, revolution, life and death.  Everyone over the age of fourteen or so should be able to read this book.  The deaths are somewhat gory (I didn't throw up reading them, I swear!)  And the spin politics that surface all through the book would be too much for younger readers to understand.  The book was riveting and truly stunning.

Hunger Games earns 5 Fairies for being an epic story with amazing characters.

1 comment:

Laura said...

What an amazing review! If I hadn't read the books already, I'd be running out to get them. I am so loving your blog.