Image courtesy SuzanneCollinsBooks.com
I’d been hearing about The Hunger Games for a while — hearing that it was really, really good. So I looked for it at the library, but couldn’t find it. I finally discovered that was because it was checked out and had a waiting list! I got on the waiting list, and when I got the book in my hands, I devoured it in about three days.
Suzanne Collins wrote a series of books called The Underland Chronicles, which I really enjoyed reading several years ago. As a result of that experience and the positive reviews I’d heard on this novel, I had high hopes. I was not disappointed.
The Hunger Games is set in the future, in what was once North America. There has been a war of great upheaval, and The Capitol has subdued twelve Districts of which it now holds firm, cruel control. As one reminder that The Capitol is in charge, each district is required to annually send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to the Hunger Games — a game of survival where there is only one victor. Winning means a life of fame and fortune. You come out of the arena alive only if you win. The main character, Katniss, knows that when she volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the Games, she will probably never see her family again.
It sounds very dark and disturbing — and indeed, the idea of such a culture is disquieting. But Collins handles the subject matter well so that you get the feelings of fear and forced submission, as well as the undercurrent of a desire (though never the nerve) to rebel. The story is full of action and creativity and intrigue and character development. And even though the subject is dark, you don’t come away from the book with an icky feeling about the depravity of humanity as you do with (for example) Lord of the Flies. Instead, you feel the power of the human spirit.
I didn’t realize until the end that The Hunger Games is the first book in a series. Now I must get on the waiting list for the second book, Catching Fire.