“I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?… I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not… when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could find a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more then just a piece in their Games…”
~ The Hunger Games
My dear readers,
Young Adult literature is, quite possibly, the most under appreciated genre of literature around (right after SciFi and Fantasy). Thanks to the recent explosion of tween targeted vampire schlock and vapid Gossip Girl-esque word vomit, the genre has been written off by “serious” readers as not worth our time.
Us mature readers want something with substance. Something with a plot. Something that deals with real human emotion and human dilemmas. Not “OMG! That vampire is sooooo dreamy!” or “How dare that skank steal my boyfriend! She’s supposed to be my BFF! WTF?”.
Well, my friends, I’m here to tell you that YA books can have substance too. Authors like John Green and Suzanne Collins tackle the nitty gritty of human reality without the florid prose and convoluted metaphor so adored by authors aiming for an adult audience. And this brings me to the book I’m going to review for you today:
The Hunger Games
By: Suzanne Collins
Liasdhbv;iasubdfliahf!!!! WTF?!?!?!? Auuuugghhh!!! WOAH!!! HOLY CHEEZUS!!!!
I do believe that almost covers my initial reaction to this book. It is that good. To say that this book (and its two sequels) have changed both the way I view books and the way I view the world would not be going too far.
I’m almost not even sure what to say that could cover how I feel about this book. I had to read it twice to bring myself to a point where I felt that I had absorbed enough of it to properly review it.
The simple straightforwardness of the writing belies the complexity of the subjects with which it deals and the emotions it portrays.
The novel takes place in the not too distant future and takes place in what was once North America and is now called Panem. The country which arose from the ashes of our 2011 society. After earthquakes and fires and floods, humanity re-emerged with a shining capitol city surrounded by thirteen districts which catered to the needs of the capital. Now, people being what they are, the thirteenth district rebelled. And was consequently squashed. As a result the Capitol instituted the annual Hunger Games, where one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts battles to the death on national television.
And so begins our story.
Katniss Everdeen is our protagonist and our narrator. A sixteen-year-old girl from District Twelve, the coal mining district, who hunts illegally to support her mother and beloved little sister. Katniss does everything to protect her sister, Prim, but there is nothing she can do to protect her from the reaping. Where two “tributes” are chosen to participate in the games. Nothing, of course, except volunteer to take her place. Which is what she does when the unthinkable happens and Prim’s name is drawn in her very first reaping.
Thus begins a fierce battle for survival and a heart-wrenching, heart-stopping, can’t-put-it-down story.
There is very little wrong with this novel. The characters are real and imperfect and beautifully rendered. The actions scenes are clear and un-glorified. And Katniss, as our unreliable narrator, is easy to love, frustrating, and completely unpretentious.
This book has a little bit of everything. Action, romance, suffering, hope, corruption, beauty, depravity and friendship. The only fault, if it is that, is that the first person point-of-view deprives the reader from truly grasping what has happened to the world in the intervening years. There is no map at the beginning of the book to give us our bearings and so we are thrust blindly into this grimy new world. But perhaps that’s for the best.
This new world, in which Katniss lives, is so different and yet so similar to our own that it made my skin crawl. The sheer poverty of District Twelve contrasted by the overwhelming excess of the capital are mentioned only from Katniss’ native view point, but it is enough to see the cautionary tale woven delicately into the unvarnished prose.
Unlike other YA books set in dystopian futures (yes, I’m looking at you Pretties), the lesson isn’t hammered into our heads. It’s drilled into our hearts. Collins truly uses the “show, don’t tell” rule to its fullest extent and never has Katniss say: “Stupid past people. Look what you did to us!”. She makes us think it ourselves.
This is the type of book the youth of today should be reading. Forget Twilight and Pretties and Pretty Little Liars. The popularity of The Hunger Games gives me hope for the youth of America and for the book industry. As long as books like this continue to be made, people will continue to read. That I guarantee.