I don’t read Young Adult fiction, my introduction said. Yet in a rare occasion I do, when there is too much hype generated from the book. Interestingly publishers and movie producers alike are finding ways to tap into the market of Young Adult, to create a cult-like fan club out of young people to stories that are unmistakenly dark and sinister, with an angry protagonist at the heart of the story.
I’m referring to the only three Young Adult series that I have read: The Harry Potters series, Twilight saga and now The Hunger Games series. Lets start with a quick synopsis, as I think by now everyone has read enough reviews or movie snippets to know what this book is all about.
In the place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by 12 outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games. An annual affair that takes reality show to the extreme, by watching adolescents release into the arena and fight to death, until the last boy or girl standing.
When young Prim’s name was called out from the draw of the hat for District 12, her sister, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to fight in her sister’s place. Knowing full well that her sister wouldn’t stand a chance against all the bigger contestants. Katniss has been closer to death than Prim, her hunting and survival skills that she harnesses daily may help her stay alive in the arena.
I can’t win. Prim must know that in her heart. The competition will be far beyond my abilities. Kids from wealthier districts, where winning is a huge honour, who’ve been trained their whole lives for this. Boys who are two to three times my size. Girls who know twenty different ways to kill you with a knife. Oh, there’ll be people like me, too. People to weed out before the real fun begins. – page 44
The other boy called out from District 12 is Peeta Mellark. Peeta is the baker’s son, a person that spared Katniss some bread in the moment of her extreme starvation and saved her life. Would Katniss kill a boy who has done her a favour?
There is a very sick system at work, mostly against the contestants. The contestants, which are called tributes, are let loose in the arena which is similar to a forest setting, with lakes, streams, fields, tall trees and Cornucopia with food supplies. First, the tributes risk their lives to make a mad dash for the food, weapons and backpacks. If they have sponsors, (bearing in mind, this is also a popular contest as the audience is watching) the tribute gets food, medicine and anything that they would wish for in a form of a silver parachute descending from the sky. If tributes decided to hide out and will their days away, the Gamemakers will concoct disasters or bait, be it rain, flood, fire, mutants and everything else to lure the tributes out from their lair to meet for a confrontation. When a tribute dies, the other tributes have to clear the ground and a hovercraft will be sent oversky to retrieve the body out of the arena and the cannon will be fired with the dead tribute’s face on display.
This is a game of strategy, of making alliances for now knowing full well you will kill them later. A game of using your strengths and forest survival skills to outwit the other tributes. It’s not the biggest size who will, but the smartest.
It was Preeta’s own ignorance that brought her down. I’ve spent so much time making sure I don’t underestimate my opponents that I’ve forgotten it’s just as dangerous to overestimate the them as well. – page 394
I told my friends I hate reading about children killing each other. I dislike Lord of the Flies and I’m not sure if I’ll read Battle Royale; but The Hunger Games is something else. I love reading about a strong heroine character, especially one that display great archery skills (I owe my infatuation to bow and arrows from watching Robin Hood the TV series in my adolescence and me spending the whole afternoon shooting arrows in Club Med in 1996!). There are talks about fashion, about spread of food, about personalities that prepares her for big time on TV, Cinna the fashion designer, Haymitch the District 12 past drunken winner of the Hunger Games. I especially like reading about the harsh reality of Katniss harsh life and hunting days in District 12, especially frightening is to read about Katniss being released to the arena as you would imagine a gladiator being released to the arena to fight the lions.
After that, the pages just flew by as one war strategy after another is unveiled as Katniss fought her way for survival. One especially has to watch out for the Careers, the boys and girls from wealthier districts who have spent all their lives training and practising for the Hunger Games. To add to the complication of the game, Katniss and Peeta have to be “on-screen” lovers who may have to kill each other at the end. What will Katniss do? Will she win the game?
I didn’t expect to like this better than the other YA fiction I have read but this is truly very clever book. I wasn’t spare on the blood and gore of wounds and festered flesh, the brutal fighting and killing continues from the half of the book onwards but the book is really clever. I guess Collins growing up as a daughter of military officer paid off in the big way. We now have a story of fighting strategy and execution that would put spy thrillers and war reports to shame, and enough heart and emotions to make it on top of the romance chart. The book is also about making choices that weigh survival against humanity; life against love, which made me think that we are a fortunate lot to be thinking about trivial things other than our next meal!
Highly recommended for those who are curious about what is all the fuss about the book and the movie!
Paperback. Publisher: Scholastic 2012; Length: 454 pages; Setting: Dystopia North America. Source: Reading Library copy. Finished reading at: 7th May 2012.
About the writer:
Suzanne Collins is an American television writer and novelist, best known for writing The Hunger Games series (which comprises The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay).
Collins was born on August 10, 1962 in Hartford, Connecticut. She is the daughter of an U.S. Air Force officer who served in the Vietnam War. As the daughter of a military officer, she and her family were constantly moving. She spent her childhood in the eastern U.S. She attended high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she was a Theater Arts major. She graduated from Indiana University with a double major in Drama and Telecommunications.
I’m glad you finally read this and liked it! I really look forward to seeing what you think of the next two books.
I’m planning to read the next two books, not at one go but as it comes from the library. It is worth a read, I thought it’s very clever. Although I wouldn’t expect the second book to be better than the first!
No you’re right the first book is the best, but the second is also very good, for me the third book is the weakest.
ok Got it! It goes down hill after the first book. 🙂
You may not agree with me, my boyfriend Tom loved all three pretty equally.
I hope this helps convert you to read more YA fiction! A lot of it is really very good! :–)
Anymore that you can recommend to me? besides the three series mentioned.
Well I love The Chaos Series by Patrick Ness (first book is The Knife of Never Letting Go). I think it is terrific, but it takes a bit to get used to in the first book. And I would recommend John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, and Jellicoe Road by the Australian author Melina Marchetta. There are a bunch of other dystopias I like but The Chaos Series is the most unique, and includes the most issues besides the usual evil government and love triangle! :–)
Hi JoV, I too am reading The Hunger Games (my kid passed it on to me)–your review is encouraging me to get back to finishing it. You have a fine blog.
Btw, I read your para at the bottom–in reply, I’d like to say that to my ear JoV’s Book Pyramid sounds better than plain Book Pyramid. It rings better, even looks better.
Thanks for visiting the blog and your reassurance of my blog name. I hope you enjoy the Hunger Games as much as I did!
I am also one of the last few on this planet who hasn’t yet read this book,Jo. If you have, then I think I must surely do so!
I’m curious about the book and must say my curiosity is rewarded. It’s a well written book with a great plot, one that appeals to both young adults and adults. Hope to watch the movie soon!
Jo, how have you been? Haha, I, too, rarely read YA, especially fantasy etc, and I don’t think this oneis for me. But it’s always interesting to try again and find you’ve liked something you woulnd’t usually read 🙂 Have you seen the film? Hope you had a great weekend 🙂
I have been busy. I haven’t watch the movie but the book is clever and gripping! Do try it. 😀
The cleverness of the plot was exactly what I liked about this series. I felt that the Hunger Games arena was more ingenious in the second book, so I’ll be waiting to hear what you think of it.
That’s good news Aths. Good to hear the second book is better than the first, I’ll read it when possible. Thanks!
I don’t read Harry Potter. Certainly not Twilight Saga. Maybe just the genre. I can’t really get into these young adult fantasy book.
Lord of the Flies is a classic though. In your opinion, do you reckon The Hunger Games will be a class like LotF half a century later?
On a side note, I remember reading an entry about the mathematics within The Hunger Games. It does sound interesting. On food rationing versus the balloting.
Oh, of course, I do find the movie adaption engaging as well!
Surprise to hear you don’t read Harry Potter! The Hunger Games may be a classic, I believe so. 🙂
The maths within The Hunger Games, what maths? I may have missed that. I got to watch the movie!
If you like this one… I really really can’t recommend Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series enough. It features a female assassin, so a strong and kick ass heroine, but oh, oh, oh. I love the series so much more than the Hunger Games. I can’t help but push it a bit more 😉
Never heard of the Graceling… Let me check. Thanks!