The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Normally when a series achieves such immense popularity that it dominates every book shop window for months, I stay away from the it as I don’t want to admit that I was late to the party. Some months later I finally give the series a whirl and often do not know what the fuss was all about.
For example, although the “Twilight series” has enough to it that I can see why it is popular, I certainly do not think it is amazing. “The Millennium Trilogy” is another where I thought the first book was good but not great. However, as I haven’t felt the inclination to return to the series yet I suppose this says a lot abot how much I really liked it. There are exceptions of course, I love Harry Potter and I suppose now, “A Song of Ice and Fire” falls into that category, but as I was already a massive fan of this so I discount it.
So I picked up the Hunger games on a whim not expecting much.
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.
As the blurb indicates the story focuses on Katniss, a girl who is disillusioned with the world she lives in and longs for something better. Her only outlet from her harsh life is the love she has for her sister and her friendship with Gale. The great thing about Katniss is that she is just your average Jill. Confused at the events taking place around her, afraid but also resourceful, Katniss is refreshing in that she doesn’t have all the answers and in the Hunger Games is definitely not a favourite to win.
Suzanne Collins also does a good job of keeping the reader second guessing the motivations of the secondary characters. As Katniss is unsure if the people she meets are friends or foes so are the audience. This is no easy feat as often I read a story and get frustrated that the protagonist is being so stupid in not seeing what the audience can see regarding a character’s intentions. The fact that the audience does not know Peeta the fellow competitor from her district is working with or against Kat, or whether her inebriated mentor Haymitch wishes her to succeed or not, makes for some intriguing reading. There will be no surprises in the Hunger Games but it is a well told story nonetheless.
When the Hunger Games eventually start they are well described. Although the idea is morbid and violence is involved, it never feels that way. That is not to say the seriousness of the situation is ignored but Suzanne draws attention to the conflict between Katniss and the organisers of the Games rather than the rival children fighting for survival. A lot of the deaths take place off screen and this adds to the intrigue as you don’t know until the end of the day who has been killed.
The world of Paneen is well realised without being forced down the reader’s throats. There are some nice touches that really add to the setting and the contrast between how the poor live to how oblivious the rich are is done well if only touched upon.
If you haven’t already guessed, I loved the Hunger Games. I can’t explain exactly why as the prose is hardly stimulating and the characters although good are nothing groundbreaking, but what Suzanne Collins is able to do is tell a story and tell it darn well.
My rating 9.2