Book review: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I finally did it folks, I jumped on the Hunger Games bandwagon.

Absolutely outstanding.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded y twelve 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, a fight to the death on live TV. 

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games.  But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature.  Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender.  But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (The Hunger Games book jacket.)

A post-apocalyptic, dystopian tale beginning with the incredible, macabre The Hunger Games and ending with the shocking, appalling and encouragingly hopeful Mockingjay.

The Hunger Games trilogy is written from the (first person) perspective of heroine Katniss Everdeen, District Twelve candidate and champion of the seventy-fourth Hunger Games: a brutal fight-to-the-death between twenty-four children, televised for mandatory viewing by all citizens of Panam.  The sixteen-year-old daughter of Panam’s mining district finds her life turned upside down when her beloved young sister, Primrose (Prim), is chosen as Hunger Games tribute for their district.  Though wisely fearful of the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take Prim’s place in them without hesitation.

While intended for a young-adult (fourteen to twenty-two-year-olds, roughly) audience, The Hunger Games trilogy has something for everyone.  Collins has given us an opportunity to study the fall and subsequent recreation of her imagined society: a post-apocalyptic world where Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Lord of the Flies, with hints of A Brave New World.  If you take a look beyond the horror and gloom of cataclysmic themes, this series is about hope.  Here you have a collection of characters, surviving an unforgiving world, who are heaved into unimaginable trials.  The major players in these books – Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne, Haymitch Abernathy and even Finnick Odair – travelled the road from innocence to experience.  Sure they had all witnessed cruelty, tragedy and tyranny, from the get-go, but they were also always distanced from it.  The Hunger Games changed that, for those directly involved in them and for those whose loved ones were directly involved in them.  All the same, they fought on.  Katniss, despite her inner turmoil, is an incredibly strong, capable and independent woman who did not give up and did not stop finding ways to thumb her nose at despotic Capitol even when she knew that such egregious insult could cost her her life.  Even Peeta, while suffering grievous injury, neither slowed nor backed down in the face of adversity.  In both of these character cases tucking tail and running would result in pain to their loved ones and would strengthen Capitol’s hold on the districts and their people.  Katniss, Peeta and their family and friends fought because they believed it would help.  They loved, they lost, they grieved and, ultimately, they hoped.  Not a bad lesson.

My only real objection in this series is static nature of several of Collins’s characters.  She spent a great deal of energy, understandably and rightly, on Katniss, so much so that some of her other principles felt a little hollow.  Most glaringly, and unfortunately, Peeta and Gale.  Where they should have been just as dynamic and sympathetic, they were a bit too “Edward and Jacob” for my liking.  Though inherently more valuable (and considerably better written), these men seemed to act as little more than love interests for Katniss (neither of whom she was terribly passionate about) or plot drivers.  Miss Everdeen stands in the ranks of Princess Cimorene and Hermione while Peeta and Gale stumble to keep up.  It’s a terrible shame, they have great potential.

All in all?  An amazing read.  I can’t recommend the series enough.  It makes a fabulous gift for your favourite reader or a wonderful treat for yourself!  Pick up a copy . . . at Books & Co.  Then have a soup and a Panini, or a muffin and a coffee.  And read.

PS. The Hunger Games is going to be released as a feature film this month (March 23, 2012)!

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This post brought to you by your friendly neighbourhood Kim “G-Unit” G: former Books & Co. bookster, current UNBC bookster and constant reader.
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