Published by Scholastic Press The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) on September 14th 2008
Genres: Dystopia, YA
Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
This review contains some spoilers.
Think of a world where people are segregated due to a war fought years ago. Where there is a divide between the Capitol, who reins supreme, and the lowly districts. The Capitol forever lets the districts know- they are at their mercy and will. Each year, to show how much power they can wield, they take two children from each district. These children are chosen to compete in a game where it’s prime-time television for the people of the Capitol. Just like a reality show, the competition will be shown across television screens for entertainment. It’s not a popularity contest though, it’s not for the people to vote for who they like the best. No. These youngsters are to compete against one another. They must compete to survive in the wilderness, where strange, mutated animals roam free and where they have to fight for their lives. Pitted against one another, they must kill each other until there is only one remaining. One winner. Welcome to The Hunger Games.
This book is harsh, gritty, raw and simply brilliant. We meet Katniss, the heroine of the story, a sixteen year old girl who lives in district 12, where their speciality is coal mining. Katniss’ existence has been harsh, and she’s learnt how cruel life is from a young age. Since her father was killed in a mining explosion, she has been the care giver of her family- looking after sister Prim, and her mother who broke down completely when their father was killed. Katniss is probably one of the most self-reliant heroines I have read about in a long time. She hunts and kills for her own food, despite the punishment that could be showered on her. She haggles with the other trades people in district 12 to survive, and knows that the way of life in the districts is unfair and in-humane. But, she knows there is no point in crying or getting angry about their situation. It doesn’t fill up their bellies with food.
There were times where I had to put the book down because it felt so real. This is not a story that hides away from the harsh truths. It shows the ugly side of life and human nature, which comes in the form of the Capitol. The Capitol had originally chosen Prim for the games, much to Katniss’ surprise and horror. Without thinking, Katniss steps forward and takes her sisters place. The other chosen player from district 12 is Peeta, who we learn has shared a moment with Katniss when she was younger and in despair. Throughout the games, Katniss shows what a remarkable teenager she is. She forms alliances, knows and feels despair but still manages to keep going.
The Hunger Games is fast paced with non stop action that leaves you in a state of suspension. You feel yourself on edge along with Katniss, not knowing who to trust. Katniss is courageous, smart, fearless and yet at times a frightened teenager where life has knocked her too many times.
Suzanne Collins has shown the cruel and unforgiving nature of humans, yet this book is a compelling read which certainly makes you think of what would you do for survival? And how far would you go?