Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Summary of The Hunger Games:  
From the publisher, Scholastic

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

As I read The Hunger Games, I could not help but to wonder how far our society is from the “game show” scenario of the novel's setting.  There is a reality TV show for just about everything in life.  Clearly, the producers manipulate the contestants and the audience—one reason I don’t watch much reality TV.  Contemporary society seems ever hungry for more blood, gore, violence, and drama.   Our own government is bent on keeping people enslaved and dependent on it for food, money, and health care.  Their laws and policies encourage debt, ignorance, and unemployment.  If the course does not change, nearly everyone will eventually be dependent on the government for his livelihood.  It is the surest way to maintain power and control over the populace.  All of these present-day symptoms make The Hunger Games feel more like a coming reality than a passing fantasy. 

The characterization in the novel is multi-facet.   Katniss, the main protagonist, is the most complex of the characters.  Her genuine struggles reveal the complexity of human choices and feelings.   With her family, she is wholly devoted to them, yet she struggles to trust her mother.  Interestingly, she has had to step up to play the role of provider and protector.  On the other hand, she has a vulnerable and insecure dimension.   Katniss has a quality I think is important in any appealing character or person:  She has an edge.  For her,  it is quiet rebellion.  

While the plot has the commercial quality of being a page-turner, the author has added depth and authenticity to it.  Katniss consistently contemplates the motives of the other players, the government, the gamekeepers, and even herself, prompting me to think about it as well. The overall realistic plot twists and turns are not easily predicted.  Each turn also uncovers a hidden motivation, prompts an individual's development, or escalates inner conflicts.  Despite the storyline’s potential for gore, Suzanne Collins, the author, provides sufficient detail without inducing squeamish disgust.  Like a high powered zoom lens, the reader is brought in close to the action and anguish momentarily, but then pulled away at a protective distance—parallel to the protagonist’ internal survival mechanism.  

Bottom line:  I could not put this novel down!  It has been a while since I have been so captivated with a book of this length.  I read it in only a few days…and I have been busy!  I had to sneak in the time to read—staying up late, telling my kids to go play for a while, and ignoring the mess around the house.   I highly recommend The Hunger Games with an enthusiastic five stars and two thumbs up for ages 13 and up.  Go get your copy at the store or library right away! 

Click here for more about this thrilling book and its sequels.

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