Good Reads: The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
There has been so much blog buzz in the last year or so about The Hunger Games, a Young Adult series. As usual, I’m slow to get on board with what’s hip and trendy. I resisted reading Twilight (also labeled “Young Adult”) until last November!
I received The Hunger Games for my birthday, and once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. And as soon I as I finished The Hunger Games, I ran out to purchase the second and third books in the trilogy (Catching Fire and Mockingjay). Luckily for me, Mockingjay was just released a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have to wait at all to read the conclusion of the series. (Don’t you hate it when you have to wait to find out what happens to the characters? I do!)
So what is The Hunger Games about, exactly? The story takes place in Panem, a country developed in place of the long-since-collapsed United States of America. Panem consists of 12 Districts and The Capitol, and The Capitol keeps a firm grip on each of the Districts, preventing communication between the Districts for fear of rebellion. The Capitol also requires that each District offer up 2 of its young adults (one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18) to participate in The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, the participants (called the Tributes) essentially fight to the death, trying to outwit and outlast (and outright kill) each other in an environment created and controlled by the Gamekeepers of the Capitol. Only one Tribute will survive. As required television programming throughout the Capitol and all 12 Districts, this is part entertainment for the high-society folks of the Capitol (exempt from sending their own Tributes) and part reminder to the Districts of just how the powerful the Capitol is.
Katniss Everdeen is a District 12 teen struggling to keep her younger sister Prim and her mother fed after the death of her father in a mining accident. Katniss hunts frequently (against the District 12 rules) with her best friend Gale. When Katniss’s younger sister Prim is selected as the female Tribute for District 12, Katniss volunteers immediately to take her place. Katniss and her fellow District 12 Tribute, Peeta (a baker’s son) learn the “rules” of the game (such as they are) and strategize with their stylists and handlers (including a former Hunger Games Champion, Haysmitch). In addition to knowing basic survival and hunting skills, it is crucial for the Tributes to make connections with rich sponsors and endear themselves with the public of the Capitol. What will Katniss be up against once she enters the Hunger Games arena? How will she handle being forced to kill or be killed by Peeta, the boy who once gave her food when she was starving?
These books are amazing! There is lots of drama, but also romance and yes, even humor (which is hard to believe, given the subject matter). And while the subject matter sounds violent (and is), it is not distractingly so. As Young Adult Novels, these are indeed appropriate books for (in my estimate) ages 14 or 15 and up. (Obviously each parent will have their own opinion about this). These books (particularly the third in the series) make a strong political statement, but again, without being distracting about it. There is a strong plotline throughout the series, and I found the conclusion at the end of the trilogy to be extremely satisfying. The third book is the weakest of the trilogy, but it does an excellent job of winding up the story. I’m opting not to discuss the second and third books in the series in much detail because I don’t want to give away any of the plot!!
Have YOU read The Hunger Games? What did you think?