Tuesday, February 28, 2012


At first I was hesitant to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as it was hailed the new Twilight. Now, I don’t have any major qualms with The Twilight Saga (other than, let’s face it, Bella Swan single-handedly setting the feminist movement back at least 50 years). My main concern was that I hate reading something I feel I’ve read before.  Well, like Twilight, The Hunger Games is a young adult book series by a female author, written in the first person. Like Twilight, the protagonist in The Hunger Games is a teenage girl. As in Twilight, our Hunger Games heroine is torn between her conflicting feelings for a possible new love interest and her best friend… but that’s where the similarities end.

The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem. The wealthy metropolis known as the Capitol has full control over all twelve of the poorer Districts which surround it. As punishment for a previous rebellion wherein District Thirteen was completely destroyed, the Capitol annually hosts the Hunger Games, an event where each of the twelve Districts must provide one girl and one boy, called Tributes, to participate in a televised fight to the death in a vast outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol.

Katniss: “Taking kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. ‘Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen”.

Over several weeks, the 24 Tributes must fight to the death while trying to survive in the outdoor arena filled with traps, poisonous creatures and plants, and some artificial disasters created by the Gamemakers for the audience’s entertainment. The last Tribute standing wins a life of wealth back home, and a precious supply of food and delicacies for his or her District. A lottery draw determines the names of the Tributes (ages 12 to 18) who must participate, and in the girls category District Twelve draws the name of 12 year old Primrose Everdeen. Mortified by the thought of Prim being subjected to the horrors of the Games, her 16 year old sister Katniss Everdeen steps up and volunteers to take her place. In the boys category District Twelve draws the name of Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son who once saved Katniss and her family from starvation - an act of kindness for which he was beaten.

In the arena Katniss and Peeta will not only face each other, but bigger, stronger killers known as Career Tributes, who illegally train throughout their whole lives in the hope that they will be chosen to represent their Districts in the Hunger Games, as these slightly wealthier Districts (District Twelve is by far the poorest) view it as an honour to be chosen as Tribute.

The 24 Tributes in the movie version of The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins’ description of a post apocalyptic world is very believable. I especially enjoyed touches such as Katniss’ first experience with a car, a high speed train, a hot shower, and her and Peeta’s first taste of hot chocolate. Another very believable aspect of the story is Katniss’ wary suspicion of Peeta’s attempts at forging a friendship. She can’t in good conscience turn her back on the boy who once saved her life… but how can she befriend or trust him now when she knows they might be forced to fight to the death, should they come to face each other in the arena? Her only hope is that someone else kills Peeta before she has to.

On the one hand, I would have loved if the book had been written in the third person. I was constantly wondering what Peeta was thinking, what his true motives were. I also couldn’t help but wonder what Gale was thinking as he was watching the Games, helplessly watching Katniss being hunted by others. On the other hand though, the first person narrative puts the reader firmly in Katniss’ shoes, and brilliantly captures her complete isolation. It also adds to the suspense of the novel – we don’t know any more than Katniss does. Maybe that’s better than having all the answers.

The Hunger Games is a very exciting read; The story is action packed, fast paced and unpredictable. The whole concept around the Hunger Games is very well plotted, from the opening ceremony, the interview stages and the training to the Games itself. As far as futuristic televised fights to the death are concerned, The Hunger Games is as realistic as can be.

Product information:
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Number of pages: 374
Publisher: Scholastic
Year: 2008
ISBN-13: 9780439023528

The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy, and is followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

The Hunger Games movie is set for release March 23rd 2012.  The very talented Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence has been cast in the lead role of Katniss Everdeen.

Liam Hemsworth has been cast as Katniss’ best friend, Gale, and Josh Hutcherson will portray the role of fellow Tribute Peeta Mellark.

Other big names in the movie include the fabulous Stanley Tucci as host Caesar Flickerman, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Elizabeth Banks as Capitol Official Effie Trinket, Lenny Kravitz as Katniss’ designer and friend, Cinna, and Woody Harrelson as Katniss and Peeta’s drunken mentor, and District 12’s only living victor, Haymitch Abernathy.

The world will be watching.

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