The Hunger Games captured the hearts of teenagers and adults alike when it shot into the bestsellers list back in 2008. But for some reason, I wasn’t interested. I think maybe I was a little snobby about the idea of young adult fiction, and I wasn’t really particularly interested in a novel set in the future. It took me five years to come round to the idea of The Hunger Games, but I’ve seen the light now and there’s no going back.
The great thing about The Hunger Games – and maybe young adult fiction more in general – is that there is very little filler. This book is all white-knuckled, nail biting, edge-of-your-seat action. I have to confess that sometimes, when I’m in a rush, I try to skim-read to the end of a chapter as I don’t like leaving books in random places. I couldn’t do that with this book. Every line is crucial to the plot; each sentence reveals a little more about this beguiling dystopian world.
So, I supposed I should get to the plot – although I’m pretty sure that most people who care know it by now. The book centres around 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a feisty hunter living in a broken futuristic world. That world is Panem; a nation which consists of 12 Districts and the Capitol. The districts live in poverty and hunger whilst those in the Capital enjoy an affluent, leisurely lifestyle at the head of the nation. As part of their totalitarian, all-powerful reign over the other districts, every year the Capitol asks for two ‘tributes’ – two children between the ages of 12 and 18 – to volunteer to take part in The Hunger Games; a ‘game’ where the children must fight to the death in a carefully controlled arena, whilst the whole of Panem watches the show on television.
The book opens on the day of the 74th Hunger Games, where we find Katniss and her family just about the attend the annual reaping, where two names are chosen at random to enter. Katniss has attended to the reaping for the last four year without incident, but this year is the first year that her little sister Primrose has been entered. And, although the odds are stacked in the favour of older tributes, 12-year-old Prim’s name is drawn. So Katniss makes a split-second decision, and volunteers herself to take her sister’s place. The boy chosen to accompany her is Peeta, the baker’s son whom she has known all her life but had little to do with up until that moment.
The story covers Katniss’s journey to the Capitol, her makeover and preparation for the games in so much detail. We see the rich, glamorous and shallow world of the Capitol through the eyes of a girl who has always had to fend for herself and work hard to get any food on the table at all. It is riveting, inspiring and disconcerting.
But then the fun really begins – the Games. I won’t give too much away about the Games, but they are brutal. The arena is a vast space, consisting of fields, forests and lakes. The Games are completely under the control of the Gamemakers who can choose at any time to spice things up by changing the weather, throwing fireballs or even sending in ferocious genetically modified animals. This is reality TV taken to the extreme; people thrown together and pitted against each other for the viewers’ entertainment. To the death.
Katniss forms touching relationships with a number of people in the arena, including a little girl called Rue who reminds her of her sister, and Peeta, the boy from her district who declares his unrequited love for her on national television. But the rules dictate only one can survive.
If you haven’t picked up The Hunger Games yet for whatever reason, I suggest that you get your hands on a copy as soon as possible. This book is gripping, and it doesn’t let you go. I find it hard to find time for reading and usually take around two weeks to finish a book, but I got through this in just a few days. Its focus is the battle which takes place in the Games, but there are elements of family love and romance which add to the beauty of the story. I really can’t find a fault with it.
I don’t normally like to read books from a series one after the other – the only other series I’ve ever done it with is Harry Potter. I’m making an exception with The Hunger Games. I started Catching Fire yesterday and I’m already about halfway through! It is a shocking, gripping and emotional adventure and I would recommend it to anyone.