I’m an LA teacher, and I do spend a lot of time reading in the summer. For enjoyment – sure, but often it’s for work. I usually enjoy my work, but with some books, I’m totally blown away. Suzanne Collins rocked my dystopian futuristic hard core world with her novel The Hunger Games. I’ve read Running Man, The Road and The Giver, and I’ve seen more post-apocalyptic survival films than you can shake a nuclear stun-grenade at. This book takes it to the next level.
First off, young adult fiction can be be a dynamite genre. Authors are trying to be edgier than the last, current, hip, relateable – you get the idea. There are certainly misses though. Been to a book store lately? You can’t swing a dead cat without knocking over a pile of vampire or warlock knock-off stories. Publishers try to rekindle the fire that they luck out with in series like Artemis Fowl, A Series of Unfortunate Events and yes, yes, books like Harry Potter and Twilight. So don’t we all breathe a collective sigh of relief when something new comes around? I’ve got to sit through 100 or so book talks a year, so new subject matter is a relief.
Humans have a tendency to compare experiences (especially reading experiences for some reason) with their history. Last time I checked, though highly relying on machines, I’m still human. The Hunger Games is an Orwelian (is that a word) that blends The Running Man with Survivor, Lord of the Flies and Home Alone. OK, so maybe comparisons don’t work.
The Hunger Games is set in post-apocalyptic remains of North America, now called Panem, which is divided into 13 districts (although District 13 has been destroyed) and is ruled by the Capitol. Life for the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is nasty, brutish, and if she’s lucky, short, although she’s found hope and friends by illegally hunting in the local woods for game she can trade in town to keep her family alive. Unfortunately, Katniss lives in a terrible time. The Capitol hosts a special event each year called the Hunger Games. 2 ‘tributes’ between the ages of 12-18 are selected from each of the 12 districts. They are taken to an arena, where they are forced to battle to the death. Of course the whole thing is televised, and citizens are forced to watch (heck, most want to) to remind them the Capitol is all-powerful, and can control citizen’s lives by controlling their most precious resources – their children. The winner receives untold riches, the losers are, well, dead.
Katniss’ young sister Prim is chosen as a tribute, but she volunteers to go in her place. She heads to the capitol, and all heck breaks loose.
The story is fantastic, surprisingly graphic, edge-of-your-seat action. It certainly is packed with morality lessons: too much government is dangerous, violence is terrible, and if we’re not careful, reality TV may get us to this place sooner than later. This is a highly recommended book!