Let me start off by saying dystopian fantasies or other grim variations of doomsday fiction have absolutely no appeal to me whatsoever. So when all my friends and bookish cyber buddies pleaded with me to read the Hunger Games, I stubbornly held my ground. There’s no way I could enjoy a dystopian action-adventure story set in the ruins of what used to be North America, right? Wrong! My curiosity finally got the best of me – and before I knew it I was sucked into Suzanne Collins’ mesmerizing world of warriors, gamemakers, mutations and tender teenage romance.
If you’re not privy to the premise of the Hunger Games (which I doubt if this post caught your eye), here’s the gist: Post-apocalyptic North America is divided into 12 districts ruled by a barbaric government located at the Capitol. Our fearless protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, lives on the seams of District 12, a wasteland of hunger, disease and death. To keep the districts from revolting against the system, the Capitol forces two random children from each district to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. When Katniss’ little sister is picked in the annual lottery to fight as a “tribute” in the games, she volunteers to take her place. Like lambs to the slaughter, the 24 tributes are dumped in a treacherous arena, where they must kill off all their competitors to win the crown. The winner gets a lifetime of luxury and celebrity. The action is filmed and broadcast to the entire world.
Now on to the hard part. How can I even attempt to review such an amazing rollercoaster ride of action, adventure, survival, courage and symbolism galore? I think I’ll take the easy way out and break down my top five reasons for loving this book.
1. It’s brutal: Even though this is classified as young adult, this book is just as violent as a Stephen King novel. I wasn’t expecting graphic scenes like the teenage girl getting stung to death by an angry swarm of lethal hornets. The bloody battles between the desperate young warriors were strangely hypnotic. What’s really disturbing is that I kind of felt like one of the voyeuristic gamemakers as I enjoyed the action unfolding in the arena of death.
2. Boy drama: This wouldn’t be a young adult novel without a love triangle, now would it? Don’t get me wrong, the lovey dovey stuff takes a backseat to the action and adventure. But there’s a hint of a budding romance between our fearless warrior and her best friend/hunting buddy, Gale. And then there’s Peeta, the strapping blond boy selected as the second tribute in District 12. Even though the end game is to be the last one standing, the pair team up and what unravels is a perplexing love story. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next book, but I’ll tell you right now I’m on Team Peeta!
3. The girl power: To say Katniss is bad-ass would be an understatement. As the sole provider for her baby sister and invalid mother, she illegally hunts wild game and scavenges the dingy streets of District 12 for scraps. She’s so awesome – she could put Robin Hood to shame with her excellent marksmanship. No matter what comes her way, she maintains a stoic demeanor and never reveals her soft underbelly. What I really love about this girl is that she’s the only one with any balls to challenge the Capitol. When they try to throw her a curveball, she shows them she’s not just another piece in their stupid game!
4. The villains: My god – how freaking awful are those Machiavellian gamemakers? There’s something very unsettling about this ruling class of evil overlords who live in luxury while the majority of their fellow citizens are feeding off of tree bark and boiled peppermint leaves. Stripped of all humanity, these decadent bastards get their kicks by watching live-stream videos of starving children slitting each other’s throats. Wow…just wow.
5. The movie: I rarely ever say this, but the movie did a bang-up job bringing the book to life. The cinematography, the colors and costumes, the casting – all brilliant! I couldn’t imagine anyone other than the talented Jennifer Lawrence playing Catniss. She was fierce in Winter’s Bone and was just as intense in The Hunger Games. I also really liked Josh Hutcherson as Peeta. With his chiseled jaw and soulful eyes, he really hit the mark as the handsome and kindhearted “boy with the bread.” Plus I think he’s kind of a cutie patootie. As for Gale, I was hoping they’d cast someone a little less pretty. Overall it was really well done – not as good as the book – but very entertaining nonetheless.
OK Hunger Games fans, what do you think? Did the movie do the book justice? What do you love most about this trilogy?