Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Hunger Games

 As part of my new series and attempt to read regularly again (I am, after all, a librarian), today we will be discussing The Hunger Games, by Susanne Collins. This book is classified as young adult, but
As a side note, this is an excellent article on why it's OK to read young adult books. (Thank you Elizabeth for that link!) Plus, it has an excellent title: "Are you reading YA lit? You should be" which is pretty much how I feel in a nutshell.
But I digress.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel (how I love those! Probably my favorite genre) which is set in a world presumably in the future, after the world as we know it has disintegrated (or fought each other to death) into a small world called Panem. Panem is divided into 12 districts,and the further out the get from the Capitol, the poorer the districts become. In the Capitol, people throw up at parties, so they can eat more food. In District 12, children frequently die of starvation. There used to be 13 districts, until the districts decided to unite and fight the Capitol, a fruitless effort that resulted in the demolition of District 13, and The Hunger Games.

The Games are the Capitol's way of reminding the districts who is in charge, and that should another rebellion occur, the Capitol would win. It keeps the districts in line, and though they are despicable, no one has attempted to challenge the Games in their 74 years. You see, in the Games 24 children, ages 12-18 (one boy and one girl from each district) are placed in an arena and forced to battle each other for the pure enjoyment of the Capitol until one Victor is left. Worse, every single district is forced to watch as their children turn to killers and, ultimately, die gruesome deaths.

It is on the Reaping day, when the names are chosen, that our story begins. Katniss Everdeen, the main character, is forced to watch as her little sister, only 12 and, therefore, her first year into the reaping bowl, is chosen. It's important to note, at this point, that the Capitol has added one more stipulation, something else to remind the districts who is in charge. Children get one entry every year they are placed in the bowl, but they are also allowed to take a monthly, meager allowance of coal and wheat, to help them through the month. For every tesserae that the children take (and they are allowed one per family member) their name is entered into the bowl again. So it is pure luck (or un-luck) that Prim's name is chosen.

Immediately Katniss volunteers to take her place, and she is off on a rollercoaster of emotions, as she is forced to fight for her life in the arena, all the while knowing her fellow tributes, especially one: Peeta Mellark, her fellow District 12 tribute. In order for Katniss to live, she must kill (and live with the consequences) not only fellow tributes from other districts, but also Peeta, whom she has begun to know, and become friends with.

The book is amazingly well-written, and sucks you in, not only with the gruesome fascination that the Games provide, but also the characters and the relationships that they build. Because at the end of the day, there can be only one victor.

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