Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Crossing the next book off my list, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins quickly became a favorite and now, of course, I'm hating myself for not buying the second book in the series, Catching Fire.

In honesty, I bought this book because I'd posted on Anne Rice's wall and asked her what she was reading at the moment.  The Hunger Games was mentioned and when I saw it for $6.29 at Walmart, I grabbed it and shoved it in the buggy with the rest of my junk.  I do not regret that impulse buy at all even though it was a gamble. I'd never read anything Collins has written nor do I know how many books she's published or anything about her at all other than the fact that she has written a book that could quite possibly influence my reading agenda for some time to come.

The plot is simple, yet complicated.  The book is told through the point of view of a sixteen year old girl named Katniss.  Katniss has had to play the role of head of her family since she was eleven years old when her father was killed in a mining accident, rendering her mother virtually useless.  Katniss then became the hunter, gatherer, caretaker of both her young sister (Prim) and her emotionally dead mother.  Katniss's duties include, but are not limited to: school, hunting animals for food (in secret because it is illegal to do so), setting traps with her friend Gale (male friend), trading for things she and her family needs, and much more.  As a matter of fact, Katniss has, by necessity, become an expert hunter and many other citizens of District 12 quite enjoy trading or buying from her when she catches rabbits or game.

In Katniss's lifetime, North America has been split into 12 districts that are run by the Capitol.  The Capitol has basically seen to it that the citizens of the country, Panem, have to work their fingers to the bone for a simple scrap of bread.  Also, due to circumstances of politics and war, there is what is called a "reaping" every single year...

The "reaping" is a ceremony where all children between the ages of twelve and eighteen are entered in sort of a drawing. Not a good one, either.  This drawing chooses one girl and one boy from each of the twelve districts. This girl and boy then are sent to the Capitol where their every move is televised for the entertainment and horror of the rest of the entire country.  They are given odd makeovers, then thrust into the a world of the government's choosing.  Sometimes it's a desert, sometimes it's the forest...Their basic goal, once thrust inside the coliseum, is to survive on their own until only one "tribute" out of 24 (2 from each district) is left alive.

These 12-18 year old tributes are to battle it out to the death in some circumstances.  There is little water, few supplies provided, and little food.  They have to hunt, gather, and fight each other to survive.  It is a very cruel practice, but the tributes have no choice if they want to live.  In fact, it is a great honor in some districts to be chosen and an even bigger honor to win since the winner is basically given a life of luxury afterwards and may not have to fight and beg and hunt for food for the rest of their life after the Games are over with.

When reaping day comes along for Katniss and her family, I felt a sincere sadness for the citizens of District 12, especially Katniss.  Katniss is sixteen, so this is not her first reaping of eligible age, but her young sister (age 12) is entered in the drawing for the very first time.  I have a daughter who is nine years old, so I can imagine having a 12 year old daughter drawn for the Games.  It's almost a death warrant. 

Prim's name is pulled from the drawing and it seems her fate is sealed until Katniss volunteers to take her sister's place, a very brave move for anyone and also not something that happens often when reaping day comes along.  Also, a male is chosen.  His name is Peeta and he is possibly my favorite character aside from Katniss, of course.

Katniss and Peeta's lives are sort of intertwined in ways and the way that Suzanne Collins describes their relationship, from start to finish in the book, is very true to the relationships that younger people have with each other.  Different, of course, but still very true to life.  I enjoy the dynamic between Katniss and Peeta very much.

Throughout the book, there are plot twists that you won't see coming all over the place.  Sometimes major twists, sometimes minor ones.  Collins writes scenes that will make you upset, make you sympathize with characters in the book (I really loved the character, Rue-a 12 year old girl who was chosen on reaping day from District 11), and you really are pulled into the fictional world that Collins has created.  District 12, where Katniss was born and raised, is actually in Appalachia.  I just happen to be from Appalachia and live here now, so when the author talks about coal mines and coal dirt and miners, I can really relate and I can tell you from my own personal experiences that the way the mines are described and the way mining life is described is also extremely true to life. 

Being that I'm from West Virginia, I can also sort of put myself in the place of young Katniss.  If I were born several years into the future, I could have been chosen for the Hunger Games instead of Katniss...It gives you a lot to think about. That being said, I don't think I would have done so well with being thrust into a coliseum full of people my age that were trying to kill me. Again, in that respect, Collins portrayed the many feelings that one would go through being in that situation very well and I could sympathize with the characters on a level I'm not quite used to because those are not feelings that I am used to feeling on a regular basis.  In writerland, this means that Collins has done an excellent job! Being able to create a world where adolescents and young adults are thrust into a coliseum to fight to the death until there is only one young person standing so that the rest of the country can watch in horror to see if their loved ones are coming home or not has to be a difficult story to write, but Collins has got my seal of approval.  She's done this seamlessly.

The second book in this series is called Catching Fire.  I know that Walmart has it because they had it when I bought this book. Unfortunately, I didn't pick it up. I wanted to see if I'd like the first book first. Now I'm kicking myself because Collins leaves you with a cliffhanger at the end of The Hunger Games. I suppose this warrants a trip to Walmart this weekend if possible. I have to have Catching Fire and if I don't get it, I promise I'll be cranky until I do!

You won't regret reading this book at all. I couldn't put it down. I finished it in less than twenty four hours. You know what that means? That means that Suzanne Collins gets an entire FIVE heart rating from me. Other than Christopher Pike, I don't think any other authors have gotten that high of a rating from this gal.

Rating:  <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 FIVE HEARTS!!!

Also available from Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire--the next book in the series.

**Film Adaptation!** 

As it turns out, there is going to be a film.  It will be released sometime in 2012 and has an excellent cast.  Woody Harrelson (YES!!) and also Lenny Kravitz will star in this movie.  The IMBD article with trailers and information can be found here. 
If you would like to read the wikipedia article, you can find it here.  

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