This is a clever and intriguing story with a strong character that you really root for
John’s Thoughts: With a little prompting by Shellie I read my first Young Adult novel, a dystopian story by a New York Times bestselling author – and I must say that I enjoyed the read.
It is set in some undisclosed time in the future, a long time after America (and the world?) has been beset by some catastrophic events. The specific cause and nature of the catastrophic events are not disclosed, but what we do know is that in the remnants of the land that used to be America, there now exists the nation of Panem – an autocratic Capital city with twelve distant districts that it rules with a rod of iron.
There used to be a thirteenth district, but after they staged an unsuccessful rebellion against the rule of the Capital, the thirteenth district was totally destroyed to teach them all a lesson. Furthermore, to serve as a constant reminder of the social structure and to help keep the districts in their place, the Hunger Games are initiated. Each year every district has to send one boy and one girl to the Capital, to take part in a televised fight to the death. The competition takes part in a different arena each year, and the Gamemakers ensure the game takes several days and is full of surprises to keep the viewers entertained. The last living competitor wins personal fame and relative fortune, not to mention kudos and prizes for their district. The Games are the social and entertainment highlight of the year, and no efforts are spared in the buildup to each year’s event.
Katniss is a young teenage girl who lives in the downtrodden twelfth district, which specializes in coal mining. Her father died in a mining accident and she has become the main breadwinner for the family, leading to a life of illegal hunting in the woods surrounding the district. This makes her tough and resilient and she feels particularly protective of her weak younger sister, Prim. When Prim has the misfortune of being chosen as district twelve’s girl competitor in the Games, Katniss has no hesitation in volunteering to take her place. And so begins the strange process leading up to the Game and the desperate struggle to stay alive. The story builds to a climax, where the competitors try to maintain some dignity and pride and even start to rebel against the Gamemakers.
This is a clever and intriguing story line and Katniss is a strong character that you really root for. While she has some strengths and skills that can help her, Collins makes her a very human and believable figure, and she clearly has weaknesses too. Katniss doesn’t believe that she has any real chance of winning, but she keeps on plugging away. Importantly, she learns two lessons. While she hates doing it, she has to play to the camera which can result in some small assists to help give her an edge. She also realizes that the only way to keep progressing is to team up with other smaller/weaker competitors – despite the fact that only one person can ultimately survive.
This is a strong book that I think many people will relate to – either young adults or older adults. It’s a powerful story that certainly makes you think. And however outrageous the Hunger Games may sound, you can look at what has happened to reality TV over the last twenty years and you can’t help but fear what it might be like twenty years on from now.
On the downside, there are one or two key characters that didn’t quite feel right, and the book ended with some irritating loose ends that were not tied up. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I realized this was the first book in a series. Even if a book is part of a series, its always nice if the book stands on its own and you don’t feel pressured to have to read the next one.
Overall I’d rate this 3.5 stars. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian fiction. I’d also recommend it to anyone who likes a strong female lead – Katniss is a great character.
- The Hunger Games
- by Suzanne Collins
- ISBN-13: 978-0-439-02349-1
- Pages 374: hardback
- Scholastic Press, 2008
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Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.