I had the strongest reservations when I picked up The Hunger Games in the bookstore. Firstly, every available inch of the european cover is splashed with quotes from Stephenie Meyer raving about how great the book is. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan the trash that is Twilight however Meyer is not a very talented writer and so I wasn’t enthused when I saw her name all over the book. I turned the book over to read the premise of the novel. My eyes immediately fell on the words “games”, “children” and “to the death”. I became instantly more skeptical as I figured this trilogy to be simply a western rip off of the novel/manga/film from Japan called Battle Royale, a story of a sadistic not too distant future where a random class of high schoolers are shipped off to the island and ordered to kill each other to the last one standing. Even with two strikes already against it, I paid my few pounds and brought home Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games follows the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old living in District 13. The Trilogy takes place where America used to be, this is far in the future and the land is called Panem. At the centre of Panem is the Capitol and surrounding it are 13 districts. The Capitol rules over the 13 Districts which provide various commodities. Katniss is from the coal mining district and takes care of her mother and younger sister as best she can in their tough life under the Capitol. The Hunger Games is a reality show organised by the Capitol in which two children from each of the districts are sent to an arena to fight to the death until there is only one victor. This is to remind the Districts never to revolt against the Capitol like they had many years ago. The books tell of Katniss and the how she deals with the Hunger Games.
It would be wrong to say that if you liked Twilight you would like The Hunger Games. The two female protagonists couldn’t be more different. You could stretch to say that there is a love story throughout the three novels, however this plays second fiddle to the more real life struggle with basic survival Katniss deals with. Also there is the whole subject of the domination of the Capitol over the Districts that makes itself a more central topic and theme throughout the novel rather than which boy the leading lady thinks is cuter.
Even though The Hunger Games is a young adult novel, it is very gritty and violent. It pulls no punches and puts struggle and death right at the forefront. Nearly every chapter finishes on a cliffhanger that is shocking, enticing and completely believable, unlike a bad TV show struggling for ratings. Every shock moment is still something the reader can believe and I think that is what makes the books so addicting. The genuine danger and fear makes for great reading. The world Collins creates is fantastic and beautiful. I will definitely be re-reading the trilogy and I highly recommend it. My only pet peev is the European cover art – it’s rubbish, I will definitely be investing in the American hard cover box set.