The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…Nope, we’re in Panem, a place that exists in a future where clearly something went awry. It sounds like those bothersome icebergs may have finally all melted. Or maybe the Mayans were right.
Panem has been broken down into 12 Districts, each under the watchful eye of – cue the foreboding music – THE CAPITOL…buah, ah, ah! Originally the Capitol’s tyrannical power loomed over 13 districts but at some point District 13 said, “Enough is enough”. Alas, the Capitol pretty much blew ’em up. It was an awful, no survivors-type ordeal and according to the live footage periodically broadcast on the Capitol’s one TV channel, the fires still burn from the crazy-ass nuke dropped years ago on the poor people of 13. Let that be a lesson to everyone…believe everything you see on TV. The Capitol reminds the remaining districts of that egregious episode of rebelliousness by sending any child 12 to 18 years old to The Hunger Games, which can be equated to the reality show “Survivor” except it’s actually real. The object of the game? Survive the rest of the tributes’ (a.k.a. contestants’) attempts to kill you. The prize? You get to live. How many prizes are there? ONE. Holy wild squirrel! I know.
Our heroine, seventeen-year old Katniss, lives over yonder in District 12. She divides her time between protecting and feeding her mother and younger sister Prim. Katniss is masterfully written as a girl who is nothing if not a survivor. The ability to handle the rigors of living in a place like Panem’s 12th District, a coal mining town, does not come without a price. Food is hard to come by and her family would starve if it wasn’t for her hunting expeditions with her best friend, Gale, the resident rugged, tall, dark handsome guy in the story. (Word to the wise, get used to the weird names, peeps. Evidently the good people of post-apocalyptic America are too busy dealing with hunger and constant impending doom to choose proper names for their children.) Gale be da man…immediately you realize you’re supposed to get a little weak in the knees for this silent, tortured soul. These hunting expeditions illustrate just what a badass Katniss is, as going outside the District 12 fence is a BIG no, no.
On the morning of The Reaping, which is when each District randomly chooses their two tributes, Katniss’s worst fear is realized: twelve-year old Prim is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games along with Peeta—the son of a local baker— Peeta, whose unfortunate name choice prompts visions of angry animal rights protestors outside of New York Fashion Week (or is it just me?) but who is actually a gentle, incredibly charismatic old soul. Oh also, BTW, he has the hots for Katniss. I’m leaving that carrot dangling for you. Enjoy.
Being the kickass broad that she is, Katniss rushes to take Prim’s place in the competition and the future of the Hunger Games is forever changed. She and Peeta are given a “mentor”, Haymitch Abernathy—a former District 12 Hunger Games Champ— who I happen to have a weird soft spot for (not in a crush way, just in a “smell you” way). Yes, he’s crass, rude, utterly obnoxious, not to mention always drunk as a skunk, but as one of the few survivors of these Hunger Games who now has the dismal job of training others heading towards their likely death, wouldn’t you take a nip of the cooking sherry too? They train together, travel together, and eat their meals together but in the end, Katniss and Peeta, though they come from the same hardships, are expected to go to combat and try to kill one another. Come on. Kumbaya everyone!
The story holds much for the reader. Suspense, little study of human nature, a taste of some conspiracy theory and romance. The romance part is short, sweet and utterly delish. The author writes each character in this suspenseful saga well enough that my “grown up friends” (those who don’t generally dip their literary toes in the YA lit pool) felt this book made the crossover as a good read for people 20+. Love them or hate them, the characters read like a study on the effects of duress on the human psyche. Translation: though the characters are kind of transparent, it’s still mmm…mmmmm…a good read.
Crush level: 4.75 /5 What? I know I have talked the highly acclaimed talk about this book, and it’s totally true, but I could use a little more romance which is icing, if you will, on a yummy terrific YA treat. Beyond that I just could not stop reading this one…exciting, exciting, EXCITING. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about being reunited with him, er, it. With IT.
Soundtrack: So, I hear there is a movie version of “The Hunger Games” in the works and I think the producers need to give me a call because there is a Linkin Park song, The Catalyst, that makes me think Chester Bennington was sitting on his couch imagining Katniss in her tribute costume. I mean, come on, the song’s name is THE CATALYST…hulloh!?! So, if you know the soundtrack creator for “The Hunger Games” please direct him or her to me because I can make them a soundtrack that will give them an eargasm like the one I had when I first heard the song. It was so good, I almost dropped my crock pot on my toe (I was washing some dishes at the time, you see).