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Ok, due to the movie adaptation of this hugely popular book recently hitting cinemas it’s hard for people to avoid mention of ‘The Hunger Games’. At first I was wary of the hype, worrying that the book (and therefore the movie) couldn’t possibly be as good as people were claiming. Eventually my housemate who is a big fan of the series lent me the first book to read and after much procrastination (and exams- no, really!) I took the book off the shelf, opened the first page...and was hooked for the next four hours!
‘The Hunger Games’ is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, now called Panem. The land is overseen by President Snow in the opulent Capitol, the big city in the Rocky Mountains, with the rest of the country is split into twelve districts. The main character is sixteen-year old Katniss Everdeen who lives in District 12; here, food is scarce and most people literally live on the breadline, so Katniss and her friend Gale hunt around the area to provide food for their families to stay alive.
One of Panem’s annual traditions to enforce the Capitol’s rule over the country is the titular Hunger Games- where two children from each district are picked as a ‘tribute’ to fight each other to the death, all of which is televised. But on the day of the choosing Katniss’s twelve-year old sister Prim is picked by lot, leading to Katniss volunteering herself as tribute to save her. Even though Katniss has seemingly little chance of winning the games, her hunting skills, mentors and the help of her fellow District 12 tribute Peeta bring out her determination to do so.
Firstly, ‘The Hunger Games’ in itself is a brilliant concept. There are a many post-apocalyptic stories where an oppressive state has emerged with huge divides between rich and poor, but the focus is more on these gladiatorial battles that combine obsession with reality tv and gladiatorial battles of the past, so it seems like something that could easily happen in the future (but hopefully won’t). Granted this isn’t a completely new idea (see Battle Royale) but it’s still refreshing and the Hunger Games themselves are fascinating to learn about, because although there is quite a bit of exposition within the narrative it is essential to pay attention and doesn’t usually distract from what is currently happening. The story is utterly compelling, as it holds the suspension in several small but impactful plot twists to keep us as much on our toes as the audience watching the Hunger Games in the world of Panem would be. Most chapters or sections end on total cliffhangers that made me not want to put the book down.
Furthermore the characters here are very realistic and all of them have their own personality and traits. Katniss herself is a fantastic narrator; Collins makes her snarky and serious and its reflected by her backstory as well as the way of live people have to lead in District 12, so she’s easy to sympathize with, if not relate to. Equally colourful is the supporting cast, with characters like former Games Winner and alcoholic Haymitch, and the flamboyant mentor Effie. Even the citizens of District 12, whom we only hear about in the first few chapters, are fleshed out individuals. There are some romantic undertones between certain characters but they are either artificial (Katniss and Peeta are made to work as a couple to appeal to the audience for the Games) or not really developed, but to me that doesn’t matter because the real meat of this story is the action. The potential for romance is left dangling at the end, at least left to be developed in the rest of the series.
I know it sounds like I’m jumping on the bandwagon but ‘The Hunger Games’ is a great book. Despite its post-apocalyptic setting the novel have themes that readers can easily learn about. It might be a bit too light a read (page-wise) for ages 25 and up, but as someone on the cusp of 20 it was thoroughly enjoyable without being too immature for my tastes. There is a lot of violence (obviously) so it’s definitely not for the really young children.
You can find ‘The Hunger Games’ in most good bookshops in-store and online, with a RRP of £7.99.