Since the movie comes out March 23rd (SQUEE), I figured it would be appropriate to do a series of reviews based on The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Granted you can read this first book in the series and wash your hands of the rest but if you’re like me, you gotta finish what you start. And you will really really really want to learn more about…well…everything.
The Hunger Games: Book 1
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year old girl who is stoic, determined, and protective like no other. She lives in District 12 (out of 12) in the country of Panem, a seemingly post-apocalyptic world that is in North America. The governing body is a city named the Capitol (more specifically, President Snow), which keeps a firm hand on the districts but still relies on them for individual supplies (textiles, coal, fish, etc.). Once a year there is a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 chosen from each district (they are called tributes) and are sent to the Capitol to participate in The Hunger Games – a morbid, cruel reminder that this is what happens when you rebel against the Capitol: they can take your children and make them fight to the death for their own amusement. There is only one victor. The Hunger Games came about 74 years prior during the Dark Days when District 13 rebelled and was ultimately destroyed; the Games being the reminder that the Capitol has the power and calls the shots over all the Districts.
What does this have to do with Katniss? Not terribly much until her little sister Primrose, age 12, is chosen as a tribute. She immediately volunteers and alights the spark to the entire trilogy with her unyielding fervor for her sister’s safety.
Whether you have siblings or not, something resonates within you during this scene where Katniss volunteers in order to protect the person she loves the most. Throughout the book, Katniss does have her dry moments but you never feel that she has lost her goal of protecting others because she herself had no one to protect her when growing up.
The heart of the book is, of course, The Hunger Games. While you may feel some details are lost in (Katniss’) translation, it is still described very well and I praise the author for religiously sticking to Katniss’s POV. I’ve read books where authors stray to another POV or even decide to change and write it in a narrative and it just feels muddled at that point.
One thing to remember: Katniss is not an overly-deep character. While you can certainly paint her that way, she has goals and is fiercely loyal to them – family, Peeta, survival, etc. This alone gives you a sense of her passion, and for me is a bit of a breath of fresh air from characters that can be overly emotional. Don’t get me wrong — Katniss has her emotional moments, but it is when she is literally on the brink and are very well placed and conveyed.
All of the characters in this book are very well-crafted and have relationships with each other in the most interesting of ways. I like to see how they all interact, then see Katniss’s point of view for it all. Effie and Cinna are probably my two favorite characters, and they are drastically different.
While an easy read, it is not a “simple” teen book by any means. It deals with extraordinarily heavy themes (especially during the Games), emotions that touch your core, and an overall passion from each and every character that really defines who they are and what this world truly is.
If I sound vague, I apologize — I just don’t want to ruin one moment of this book you need to pick up and read! It’s enthralling and will really make you think of who you would protect no matter what. Or maybe it will make you think of picking up archery. Whichever!
Chan’s Rating: 10 out of 10!
P.S. Watch the trailer for the movie here!