Last April my great aunt kindly passed on to me an illness that kept me in bed for two weeks with nothing but plain rice and internet shopping for company. When I’m bored, the internet is a dangerous thing because I order books.
Lots of books.
I had heard about a series called The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins from various blogs and so between pathetic coughs, I asked my mother to get it from the library for me.
While I waited I looked up the series online to try and get a feel for what I was about to read. The fandom (online community of fans) for The Hunger Games bordered on maniacal and everyone recommended the series with an almost evangelical frenzy. There was overuse of capslock and unnecessary punctuation, and anyone who hadn’t read the series was treated as though they needed saving from the rock they were apparently living under. It was a total madhouse and I was very put off, mainly because that frenzy reminded me very much of the Twilight fandom in that anyone who said a bad word against the books was immediately beaten into submission.
So I definitely went into the book with a sense of trepidation. I was expecting it not to live up to all these recommendations, and had a vague notion that I might encounter sparkling skin or oblivious parents. I decided to try it out anyway and see what all the fuss was about.
Panem, the land where the series is set, is a post-apocalyptic North America. Floods have set in and most of the coastal areas are underwater. Remaining are 12 Districts whose residents mine, farm and produce materials for the Capitol, which rules all the Districts.
The Hunger Games is essentially a reality television show for the entertainment of the Capitol residents, but it also acts as a reminder to the Districts that the Capitol has ultimate power. It takes place in an outdoor arena created by the Gamemakers. There are 24 contestants: 1 boy and 1 girl randomly chosen from each District between the ages of 12 and 18. However, there is one crucial addition to the reality television genre. The contestants must fight to the death, and the last one alive is the winner.
We see the Games through the eyes of Katniss, who chooses to go into the arena to protect her younger sister Prim. She is not meek or docile or compliant with the system, she is a ball of flames and her personality erupts off the page. Collins sculpts her voice in such a way that I was sucked into her story within minutes. I didn’t put the book down until I had finished it and was immediately desperate for more. Waiting for the next book, the oddest thing happened. I began to see the book not as a work of fiction, but as a warning to today’s generation. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like Suzanne Collins was trying to teach her readers what such a high level of materialistic culture will lead to. The Capitol citizens don’t care what kind of life the people in the Districts have as long as it means they have everything they could ever want in life.
I’ve lost count of the amount of people I have recommended the series to. The other two books in the trilogy continue with the same ferocity and introduce revolutionary political ideas in a way that makes complete sense. There is no jargon; everything is explained in plain and simple terms. The series doesn’t confine itself to a genre; at the same time it is action, romance, horror, political and feminist. Katniss is such a real character, she has real flaws and real fears and she doubts herself. She is not a perfect model of a human being, but Collins uses her as a vessel through which to tell a story about greed and corruption.
I highly recommend the series to people of any age. However, the highest recommendation goes to young adults who don’t know anything about politics but want to. It sparked my interest in what goes on in the world, and the idea of a political uprising is particularly relevant at the current time. Katniss is not a heroine or a role model, but she is part of something bigger than herself, and that ‘something bigger’ will linger in your mind long after you finish the books.
The Hunger Games is being made into a film, see mockingjay.net for more details. Here is a chance to read the books before the film comes out; we have them all in the libraries now – reserve the first one online!
Elly – Library Officer
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