I really had little interest in reading this book — I just want to get that admission out there from the beginning! I’m really not a reader of science fiction or fantasy, and I pay little attention to novels set in “alternate universes” or the future. I’m very much a here-and-now kind of gal — and I spend most of my time traipsing through big cities with 20-somethings figuring out their path in life. In that vein, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games had little appeal for me.
So why did I pick it up, then?
This book is everywhere. Click over to any book blog and you’ll see folks typing away about it, debating the novel’s various points. To be frank, I caved under literary peer pressure.
And I’m so glad I did.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss is our narrator, a young woman from District 12 of what was once the United States. North America is now Panem, ruled by a group called the Capitol, the all-knowing and ruthless government that presides over each of the districts. Starving and exhausted, Katniss hunts with Gale, her closest friend and ally, to provide the meager offerings she can to her mother and 12-year-old sister Prim, but there’s never enough to fill the empty void in her aching stomach.
In retaliation for an uprising against the Capitol many years earlier, an annual Hunger Games takes place — a fight-to-the-death battle televised live on every battered TV in Panem. Each district “randomly” selects one boy and one girl to represent them in the Games, and this year’s contestants are Peeta, a strong baker’s son, and Prim — Katniss’s sister. Without hesitation, Katniss jumps up to take Prim’s place . . . and then the Games are underway.
The suspense in this novel was fantastic, though not unbearable — and I frequently found myself chewing on a thumbnail saying, “Now how are they going to get out of this?” That element of mystery and fear kept me deeply engrossed in the plot — as did the developing love story. Could I see it coming ten miles away? Sure. But that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to experience.
I was a little nervous about the story’s violence and potential gore factor; I’m a squeamish reader. But I wasn’t really disturbed by the book’s imagery or descriptions, though there were a few whoppers in there. Everything was written tastefully, and the plot didn’t dissolve into merely a bloodbath. For that, I was deeply grateful!
As I described the novel’s plot to my sister, she gave me a wry look and said, “Oh, I’m sure everyone is having a field day examining that book as a commentary on our government and civilization.” And I’m sure many people can look at it that way, but I’ll say this — I enjoyed the book for what it was: a riveting, fast-paced story of family, devotion, love and survival, and I absolutely can’t wait to get my nail-bitten hands on Catching Fire, the book’s highly-anticipated sequel.
4.5 out of 5!