Published by Scholastic Press on September 14th 2008
Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Damn. I forgot how good this book was. I’ve recently gone back to read many of the books I read pre-blog to see if my opinions have changed as I’ve gotten older. Some of the books, like INSURGENT have not held up at all. Others remain the same, like Harry Potter. Other’s still seem to have gotten better as I’ve aged. THE HUNGER GAMES is one of the latter.
As a teenager, albeit an older one when HUNGER GAMES was first released, I was of course terrified of the concept of this world. And yet also fascinated. I picked my ship, I got invested, the Hunger Games ripped them apart (Team Gale forever, y’all) but I could never really understand why I was so against the book’s other protagonist, Peeta. Now as an adult I see it.
Peeta, while portrayed as a good guy, comes off as a bit manipulative. Even when he is telling the truth, his love for Katniss, its used to manipulate the audience. In the games while he is ill, it feels like he also uses it to manipulate Katniss. The characters always compliment him on how good he is with words and the crowd. It’s a little uncomfortable. Other than this it almost seems like he has no strengths at all. The guy is a total damsel, a trait that only gets worse as the series progresses.
This is a relatively minor complaint, but it is the reason I have always drifted towards the other option. It doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the series, in fact I kind of enjoy seeing him get knocked on his ass again and again. Especially by Katniss. If I were thinking out with without enjoyment bias there are probably plenty of other issues with the book. Katniss’ flip floppy affections is one that continues throughout the entire series. And yet I can’t let go of the fact that this book is still as addicting as it always was.
One of the reasons I think this book is just so good is the games themselves. They are a really well crafted device. They bring in emotion and action in equal measure, giving the reader exactly what they need at each stage of the story. The pacing of the games is perfect, never too fast but also not dragging. Besides being horrifying and fascinating at the same time, the reflection of the districts vs capitol struggle in the games sets up all the political turmoil to come.
The last thing I have to say about THE HUNGER GAMES is my amazement at how wonderfully crafted even the side characters in the series are. Cinna is beloved from day one due to Collins’ simple description and his immediate compassion. Effie is hated at first, but you can’t help but feel affection for her even in her shallowness. The prep team too. And Haymitch.
THE HUNGER GAMES is probably the most solid dystopian of that era of sci fi boom. Its popularity is deserved, rather than an effect of the trend as many of the other books of the kind from that time (I read dozens, if not hundreds). This is the one at always stands out.
Even though the series didn’t end on the same spectacular note, I highly recommend giving this series a reread, or even a first read if you somehow missed the wagon. Let’s see if CATCHING FIRE holds up the same way, and it MOCKINGJAY still illicit the same hate as it did when I first read it.
What is your favorite dystopian? Share your thoughts in the comments.
From my shelf to yours,