Summary: 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. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before -- and survival. -- Scholastic
There has been so much hype around THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins that I knew I had to read it -- everyone seems to be raving about it! I have to admit that it's not a book that I probably would have picked up prior to associating with some many book bloggers because 1) it's YA and that's just not a genre I read much of, and 2) it's technically science fiction and that's not a genre I usually read either. However, since everyone is so excited about this book, I decided to check it out of my library and see what all the fuss was about. I was more than a little concerned that it couldn't possibly live up to everyone's praise, but guess what? It did -- I absolutely loved this book!
I knew I was in trouble when I started this book on Mother's Day. I probably should have been spending some quality time with my family, but I had to read THE HUNGER GAMES. I simply could not put this book down. And, it's not one of those books that takes awhile to get into -- no sir, from the very first page, I was hooked! I became so caught up in this action-packed, fact-paced novel that I had to keep reading to find out what happened.
The plot of this book is just an amazing story -- 24 kids fighting to their deaths until there is only one remaining. What makes this story is more insane is that the event is "televised" to all the citizens of Panem -- it is a reality show that knows no bounds. While parts of the story seemed a bit like the Olympics, especially the pageantry of the opening cermonies and the special interest stories, other parts were more like the ultimate Survivor show (only this time it was a case of life and death.) From just a plot standpoint, this book was fascinating and there was never a dull moment.
However, there were so many more great things about this novel than just the storyline. I loved how the author developed the characters, especially sixteen year old Katniss. When the story begins, Katniss came across to me as very harsh and bitter -- of course, her father died in a mine explosion, her mother basically shut down, and she was responsible for taking care of and feeding her little sister so I guess she had a right to be a little angst-ridden. I appreciated that the author allowed us to see a gentler side of Katniss when she was out hunting in the woods and talking with her friend Gale. I also saw signs of Katniss' more compassionate side when she sacrificed herself for an almost certain death rather then letting her younger sister compete in The Hunger Games. Had I not seen this caring side of Katniss, I'm not sure I would have felt such an affinity to Katniss.
I absolutely loved how Katniss matured throughout the course of this novel. I can imagine that fighting for your life would make you grow up quickly. Katniss was a pretty real character for me -- a teenager who at times thought and acted like an adult, and other times who was absolutely clueless. I appreciated how she learned not only to trust her own instincts, but eventually learned how to trust others. I also liked how she came to really understand herself and her strengths (and even her weaknesses); and, I definitely think she showed signs of being a "normal" teenager when it comes to her confusion about boys!
In addition to developing the character of Katniss, I thought the author did an amazing job with showing human characteristics -- both good and bad -- in all of the other characters in the book. She created characters who had very real and honest feelings such as compassion and hope, but also greed and anger. I can only imagine how fighting for your life can bring out the best and worst of human behavior.
Another thing I really liked was how Ms. Collins wove so much insight into individuals and society into this novel. She did a great job of showing how discrimination and bias exists among people, and how the upper classes can take advantage of their situation in life. I also appreciated how she showed the effects that war has on a society especially when it comes to the children. Those are just a few examples of the thought-provoking themes that run through this book.
THE HUNGER GAMES is the first in a series, and I can't wait for Book 2 CATCHING FIRE which will be available on September 1st. When I finished this book, there were quite a few loose ends which I'm sure will be addressed in the next novel. And while Katniss did grow up a lot throughout the course of this book, I'm anxious to see what happens to her when she goes back home. She has some unresolved issues from her relationships, and I'm curious to see how she handles them.
There is a very cool website devoted to THE HUNGER GAMES. Even though the site is not geared towards me, I had a lot of fun playing around on it! There are downloadable games, excerpts from the book, and even a message board so you can discuss the story with others.
The only thing that disappointed me about this book is that my daughter is too young to read it. There is some violence and cruelty that might upset younger readers and probably would disturb her. It's not that she couldn't read it, but I think to fully appreciate the book, she should wait a few years. Plus, I'm not really ready to answer some of her questions that are sure to pop up.
I definitely recommend THE HUNGER GAMES to every teen (boys and girls alike) because I'm sure they will love it as much as I do; but I also think adults will appreciate the story for some different reasons. I think this novel would make an excellent discussion book for a teen book club or even a mother daughter book club; and I firmly intend to have our girls read it in a few years. Besides being a great story, there are so many things to think about -- namely, the effects of war on our society and especially our children.
If you haven't read THE HUNGER GAMES yet, what are you waiting for? It's a fabulous book that is sure to be a pleaser!