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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

January 30, 2011

OMG WOW would be my 6-letter review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, if I were so limited. However, I don’t practice word economy, so I get to blather on for a while.

The Hunger Games is the first book of an immensely popular young adult trilogy. Being a teacher it seemed appropriate to read it; being a lover of all things post-apocalyptic, it seemed necessary. Now, this novel isn’t like watchingSteel Dawn, Mad Max or A Boy and His Dog; it’s like reading an incredibly riveting short-and-sweet book. Why? Well, it is an incredibly riveting short-and sweet-book. Sure, it’s 374 pages of large type and ample white space, but the prose and plot are also just that damn swift. I never once got bored; in fact, I read it over two weekdays, which is atypical given my work/beer consumption schedule.

The Hunger Games features a badass teenaged protagonist, Katniss, who, as a poacher, literally puts the food on her family’s table. She’s lucky enough to live in the 12th District, the poorest sector in the nation of Panem. Panem is the former North America, ravaged by civil war and who-knows-what-else. (Who knows what else lies beyond Panem, either.) Each year, in order to assert their dominance over the twelve outlying sectors, The Capitol requires the districts to send a male and female Tribute to The Hunger Games, a televised fight-to-the-death. (Someone’s been watching reality TV!) Because the book hinges on this, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say Katniss goes to the Hunger Games. Her name isn’t drawn as Tributes usually are; she volunteers to go, which is the first reason readers fall in love with her.

This plot may seem ordinary, given the flavors of Running Man and Survivor. However, it is enhanced given the Hunger Games’ competitors’ ages: 12-18. The Tributes aren’t hardened criminals, but unlucky saps. A few of them are Careers, having prepared their whole lives for the Games and volunteered, but most of them are just kids. This shit is brutal.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about how much I’d like to read a book and cry; I often cry while watching movies and TV, but as much as I love literature, it rarely moves me to tears (did I even cry while reading The Road?). So, peoploids, it is my duty to admit I hella cried while reading this book. (See pages 22, 38, 234, 273, 343, at least.) Collins really knows how to pull on those heartstrings. Think about the first person in the world that you would die for: imagine them being sent to a certain death that you, along with everyone you know, will watch on TV. (If you say there’s no one you would die for, you have no soul.) That death will be likely be agonizing and probably humiliating; if that person is your younger sibling, could you let it happen? I know I couldn’t (So, uh, lucky you, Sam. I’ll take your place).

Collins doesn’t stop there with the tear-bait, though. Reading about selflessness is tear-inducing, yeah, but there’s so much more. And because it’s a YA novel, there’s enough romance to keep you interested (you know you were wondering). I think I’ve said enough. This book is in an incredibly entertaining read, but it also forces you to think about who you love and how far you would go to as a result (and Katniss isn’t the only character to prove her love in the book, either). There are also other themes you could pick up on too, concerning government oppression and society’s obsession with watching others bleed. Man, I want to teach this book so bad. It would make an amazing freshman read, I think.

KK

P.S. In case you didn’t pick up on it, the protagonist Katniss is female. A complicated, confused, kickass female. Thank you, Suzanne Collins.

P.P.S. Next up is Catching Fire, the second of the trilogy. I think I’ll be staying up late tonight.

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