Friday, March 23, 2012
The Hunger Games...Review
Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone fighting against you?
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.
So I'm super late to the Hunger Games party. I know that. Dystopian isn't my thing. YA isn't really my thing. First person really isn't my thing and first person tense usually bugs me to no end. I also tend to avoid trendy novels with rabid fans. However, the film really intrigued me and The Boy was reading it, so I decided I'd read along.
Wow. Simply: Wow. I am shocked as hell at how much I liked this book. The premise, although disturbing, is fascinating and the exploration of the feelings of the participants and victors was well done. I'm finding it difficult to put my thoughts into words and I'm sure that this review will undergo some polishing and changing over the next few days as I think and reread.**
I know there are a lot of people who think the idea of kids killing kids is abhorrent and I completely agree. However, this wasn't a book filled with gratuitous violence and murder. It was kill or be killed and survive at all costs. None of these children goes into these games for the sheer pleasure of murder. They are thrown into these games for the sheer pleasure of a depraved segment of society that lives of the hard work of others and finds obsessive joy in gladiator-style reality entertainment. Katniss wasn't thrilled with her first kill, nor was she appalled. She didn't glory in any of it. She did what she had to do to survive and return to her family.
The idea of an oppressive government and a controlled media isn't always so far off. Think Iron Curtain and Cold War. Totalitarianism. Think of the varied definitions of communism, maoism and even socialism and the arguments that erupt over those definitions. There is no society that is immune to it. When I think of the hunger games portrayed here, I think not only of Ancient Rome and the Colosseum or Cold War Russia, I think of our society's obsession with Reality television. While we don't, yet, have shows that portray teenagers being forced to kill each other, we have our share of embarrassing train wrecks and watching someone else's humiliation and misfortune has become entertainment. And, yet, we watch. (Well, I don't, because not only don't have satellite or cable, we don't watch those shows by choice.)
Suzanne Collins' descriptions and imagery and vivid. I can just picture the contrast of the colorless, depressed districts with the nauseatingly bright, depraved Capitol and these people who can look at these gladiator-type games as sport without caring in the least that these kids are going to die. I can see the Gamemakers who sit up in their own little world and control the actual games. And, I can feel Katniss' confusion and confliction at liking and needing Peeta and then using him.
These are two 16 year old kids, but they're kids who have been through difficult times and have lived hard lives. Katniss may not understand the nuances and intricacies of romance and interpersonal relationships, but she understands love and fear. She has strength and gumption and isn't waiting around for someone to save her. And, Peeta. I love the character of Peeta. Katniss took some time to grow on me and I'm still not sure how much I like her, but Peeta resonated with me from the start. Peeta loves with his whole heart and Katniss is so jaded that she doesn't know who she loves, she just knows that she needs to survive and that she needs Peeta to survive with her.
There are so many levels to interpreting/reading this book. It's a perfect book to promote so many discussions whether they be about war, about government, about oppression, about relationships.
I'm so glad I don't have to wait for Catching Fire to be released. It's sitting on my desk at this moment! The Boy really liked The Hunger Games and we have had some terrific discussions about it and about history.
*Updated to add that we saw the film and loved it. I thought it was a terrific adaptation that stayed really true to the book. The casting was fantastic. Couldn't have been better.
I read my own personal copy, but you can purchase your own here.
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**This post has been edited because as I continue to think about this book, my thoughts evolve and develop. This review will probably go through several reiterations before I'm completely happy with it.