Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Hunger Games is a young adult, dystopian novel set in the United States at an unknown future date. The protagonists of the story are Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, but Katniss is the narrator. They are from District 12, a poor district, in charge of mining coal. My guess is that District 12 is somewhere near modern day Tennessee and Kentucky, maybe this is unduly influenced by the fact that my husband's family are actually coal miners from that area.
The Capitol is the center of this future country of Panem. Every year, the 12 districts participate in a lottery in which a boy and girl "tribute" from each area are entered into a deadly set of games, The Hunger Games, that are mandatory viewing for the nation. The boys and girls range in age from 12 to 18, each year their name is added again to the lottery, so older children are more likely to get chosen. Children of poor families may enter their names extra times each year in order to acquire necessary supplies such as food. These games are a punishment to all the districts for the rebellion of District 13, which the Capitol obliterated.
When we meet Katniss, we quickly learn that she is ferociously independent and deeply resents the Capitol's interference in their lives. We also learn that she is smart enough to have learned at an early age to control her facial expressions and mouth to avoid causing her family problems. She has been taking care of her mom and sister, Prim, since her father's death in a mine explosion. She has partially done this, by having her name entered into the game lottery extra times.This year's lottery is more stressful for her because her sister is now a part of the lottery, though she isn't overly concerned as Prim has very little chance of having her name drawn.
As luck would have it (I apologize for the cliche), Prim's name is drawn. Katniss immediately jumps up to take her sister's place, this is very unusual in a world where people have resigned themselves to these awful games.
The games are further complicated when Peeta is chosen as the other "tribute". Peeta is the boy that gave her bread after her father's death, when she was on the verge of giving up. He was hit for burning the bread, which he did on purpose, in order to give the loaves to Katniss. She is conflicted because she feels she owes him her life and has never thanked him for his kindness.
Collins keeps a good pace in the book, and moves smoothly between different emotional levels. Her teen characters struck me as believable and true to the teen mindset. She provides some nice surprises and a couple of twists in the tale. I had a hard time writing this review, because all I really wanted to do was to start the next book in the series, Catching Fire.
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