Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Hunger Games-- Suzanne Collins

Few books warrant a re-read. After I've read a book once, usually I send it back to the library immediately having thoroughly enjoyed it or thoroughly hated it, but every once in a while I find that gem, the lone shining star that sticks with me continually shining it's light on my mind. I know when I catch one of these that I will re-read it some day. Usually, it's those lingering characters or twisting plot that causes me to actually go out and buy the book. Being a former English teacher, one would think that my shelves are full of books--and they are-- but I only have one shelf... and it's small.  It's used for my gems.

As you've probably figured, The Hunger Games is a re-read; though, I don't technically own it yet.  So, any of you who'd like to buy it for my gem shelf, feel free.

Honestly, I don't know where to begin with this one. The characters are well developed and unforgettable, the plot gives so many twists and turns, you never know what is coming next.  Let me tell you, Collins is a master of giving the reader the unexpected at just the right moment. Even the setting commands attention.

It's a future America called Panem. But this future isn't so bright. After the thirteen districts rebelled against the  government and lost, the leaders of the nation though fit to implement a annual reminder to the people proving again and again that they are the ones in charge. Hence, the Hunger Games.  Each year, everyone is required to attend the reaping during which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the twelve districts are chosen to play in the Hunger Games. Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, this is not a prize you want to win. Definitely not. You see, it's a fight to the death.

Now, just saying that may turn many of you off.  You don't want to read about teens fighting.  It's too grotesque or violent.  That's what's so amazing about this book.  It's the reason I had to read it. How could Collins make this appropriate and still have the kids kill each other?  The question had to be answered, and I refuse to answer it here in this blog. Read it.  Just know that it was not at all what I had expected.  I figured it had to be horribly violent, but Collins is amazing at capturing the story without turning off the reader. (Though I'm sure many a teenage boy would love more gore filled details.) Which brings me to another point: this is a fantastic book for boys and girls alike.  Yes, the protagonist is female, but the elements of hunting, survival and fighting could easily suck boys into the story.

The characters are incredibly believable. I had no problem thinking that Katniss was a hunter or that her talent lay in her bow and arrow.  Even the little bit of a love story (No, that's not the focus, thank goodness.) wove itself intricately into the rest of the story. From the strange people who live in the capital who don't understand what life is really like outside, to the avoxes--captured rebels maimed for their rebellion.-- to Greasy Sae down at the Hob-- a local underground trading center, to the other children chosen to fight, Collins's characters jump off the page. We feel for them.  We don't want them to be punished for hunting outside the perimeter. We love when Katniss forms and alliance with Rue, a twelve year old from District eleven.  We hate The Careers-- kids from those districts who have the resources to train their children for the games-- kids who usually win because of their prowess and strength. We even pity Haymitch, the drunk former games winner and Katniss's mentor.

There's so much more I could say.  I could go on about the story line, but then you wouldn't have to read it, and I don't want that to happen.  I could speak of it's ties to governmental control books like Orwell's 1984.  Big Brother is always watching!  I could talk of sacrifice for family, young people taking responsibility before their time, unrequited love, or brewing rebellion, but these are all themes you will see when you pick up a copy for yourself.

Don't forget, don't just buy The Hunger Games.  It's Sequel, Catching Fire is out as well and the third, Mockingjay, comes out this summer.  You can bet you'll see them on my gem shelf eventually.

I think I'll end today with a question or two:  What parts of the book made you the most angry? Which character did you identify with most? And lastly, what would be your strategy to win the games if you were chosen? (Note, you can have no special training other than the skills you possess at this very moment.)-- Me?  I'd die for sure.


  1. Danielle RaymondJune 24, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    I absolutely love the Hunger Games series! There aren't a lot of books I go bananas for nowadays -I'm starting to feel like I've seen it all. But The Hunger Games - as well as Catching Fire - are very complex. They are not only a study of human nature, but a tale or government control and rebellion. I probably most identified with Katniss. She's a strong female lead, has a good head on her shoulders. The part that probably made me the most angry was...well, there were quite a few parts that made me angry. But one that really stood out was when they killed Rue. She was just a little girl! And as for my strategy in the arena - I'd be right there with you in the body count. The talent of writing isn't very useful in life or death situations. It's pretty much the only one I have.

  2. I totally agree. It is a study of human nature, albeit a scary one. But it's not out of the realm of possibility when you consider what humans have done to each other for thousands of years.
    I know what you mean about Rue, but you had to know. Katniss has to be in the other books, but I agree that there could have been a way to save her. However, if she hadn't died then Thrush wouldn't have had a reason to do what he did. (I'm trying not to give too many spoilers.)
    You're right about writing not getting us anywhere in the arena with writing. Maybe we could write directions to lead the other players to an alligator infested swamp or something. I can bake too, but not decorate like Peeta, so I don't think blueberry pies would do any good, unless maybe I could poison them somehow!