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.