Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Starvation's not an uncommon fate in District 12. Who hasn't seen the victims? Older people who can't work. Children from a family with too many to feed. Those injured in the mines. Straggling through the streets. And one day, you come upon them sitting motionless against a wall or lying in the Meadow, you hear the wails from a house, and the Peacekeepers are called in to retrieve the body. Starvation is never the cause of death officially. It's always the flu, or exposure, or pneumonia. But that fools no one.

Not a whole lot to say about The Hunger Games. A friend recommended it to me after I told her how much I loved McCarthy's The Road. The two could not be further apart, aside from the post-apocalyptic settings, I suppose. The Hunger Games is actually young-adult fiction, which is pretty apparent as soon as you start the book.

The plot is a mish-mash of 1984, Lord of the Flies, The Lottery, and The Most Dangerous Game. You've got your dystopian wasteland where the world has been essentially destroyed by an unexplained phenomena. You've got your "Big Brother"-esque government running the show (in the Rockies, of all places). Finally, you've got your 12 districts where survivors work to provide themselves with essential natural resources. The main character, Katniss, is sixteen years old and lives in District 12 with her mother and young sister. She is the head of the household, taking care of her sister and doing all the hunting for the family. We join Kat in District 12 a few days before the Reaping ceremony. Every year, 2 children between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected to represent their district in The Hunger Games. The 24 Tributes (2 from each district) will then fight until only one remains alive. The Victor will return home to a life of wealth and comfort while twenty three other families mourn their loss. When Kat's younger sister, Prim, is selected as a "Tribute," Kat steps up to take her place in what can only be described as a very predictable act of love and courage.

Just like you'd expect the story to play out, the good guys win and they even manage to stick it in the eye of the shadowy Peacekeepers and break the rules a little bit. Apparently this is the first book of a three book series, and the ending leaves a lot to be desired. The denouement of the actual Hunger Games was really anticlimactic and overall I didn't much care for the book. That said it's YA fiction and you could read it in one afternoon, so really no harm no foul.

I should mention that I did really enjoy the main character. And after reading Twilight its good to see that there are still books out there with young female protagonists that aren't completely obnoxious and weak. Crappy teen lit is going to make a feminist of me, yet.


Amanda said...

I loved this book. But I'm a bit fan of dystopias, which helps. I really liked that this combined a post-apocolyptic world with a retelling of the old roman fighting rituals. The second book in the series is not as good, but I'm still looking forward to the third.

Carlton Farmer said...

This is good YA fiction.