strange like that

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

HungerGamesToday is a double review of the first two books in the Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). Written by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games tells the tale of a bleak future world called Panem where a ruling body called the Capitol reigns supreme over the 12 poor districts surrounding it. At one point in their history the original 13 districts had banded together to take down their cruel overlords only to be left defeated and broken and the 13th district was obliterated completely. As a further indignity and reminder of how futile resistance is, each district must give up two randomly selected tributes to engage in a fight to the death in a yearly tournament called the Hunger Games. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the tributes are children from the ages of 14 to 18.

The books are written in first person from the viewpoint of a young tribute from District 12 named Katniss. When the name of her little sister, Prim, is called during the tribute selection, she volunteers to take her place. While she is a strong and resourceful girl, she fully expects to die during the games. However, she finds a lot more than she expected and comes to realize that maybe she can survive after all.

In reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I got a lot more than I expected. Not only are the books fairly well written, but they are the very definition of “page-turner”. Every time I thought I’d found a good place to stop reading for a while, I found myself instantly sucked in to the next chapter.

Collins also succeeds in writing up an interesting and mostly likable cast of characters. She does fall in to creating a love triangle with her lead; but unlike most where the boys are polar opposites, both are very appealing. It’s nearly impossible to choose who you want Katniss to fall in love with. There’s Gale who has been her friend for years and will fight to the death for what he believes in. Then there’s Peeta who has the gift of words and is exceptionally kind. Both boys love her deeply and would do anything for her.

As for Katniss herself, she was a character I felt I could relate to. She’s surly and never backs down from a fight. As noted by the character, she is far from being a girly-girl. Unlike some other female leads in young adult books, she doesn’t flounce around with the boys who love her. She’s not sure what she wants, and so she doesn’t promise more than she can give. The character is flawed, but those flaws are what makes her perfect and real.

The world in the books is dark, and at times, painful to read about. There have been many other stories that explore similar dystopian futures, but not all of them make their point so well. The people who live in the Capitol have everything and see the “games” purely as entertainment. It is the only life they know, so they think little of the children’s lives who are wasted year after year. Those living in the districts know almost nothing but constant hunger and poverty. What’s the most scary about this world is that under the right circumstances it could someday become our future.

If you’re not one of those adults that thinks young adult fiction is below you, I recommend giving the series a try. For all the misery explored in Panem one thing remains constant; the human spirit. There is always hope.

(The Hunger Games book 3 releases this August.)

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