THE HUNGER GAMES
Young Adult Futuristic Dystopian
Paperback version reviewed
Review by Willa Kaye Danes, author at Penumbra Publishing
I had heard many wonderful things about this book, but avoided for a long time reading it because of the subject matter, thinking that it certainly wouldn’t end well. When I finally did get the opportunity to read THE HUNGER GAMES, after having read many short and rather ho-hum, even disappointing novels billed as young-adult, I found it difficult to believe THE HUNGER GAMES is a young-adult novel. It certainly doesn’t fit in the category of ‘ho-hum,’ and it doesn’t rely on paranormal or supernatural bells and whistles as a crutch to build character and suspense. Told in first-person present tense through the female protagonist Katniss Everdeen, THE HUNGER GAMES made an immediate and lasting impression. Upon reading the first couple pages, I devoured this book (pun intended). And my eagerness to finish it in no way was diminished by the knowledge that it would have to end, because the ending held up to my best expectations, even though it certainly paved the way for the sequel.
In case you haven’t read the more than 4,000 customer reviews on Amazon (the majority of them glowing), I will briefly summarize the plot. However much I wish it to be true, this review can in no way give proper praise to this book.
In the not-too-distant future, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives with her mother and twelve-year-old sister Prim in District 12, what was once part of Appalachia in former United States of America, but is now one of the cordoned-off and policed areas of Panem, carved out after a quashed rebellion. In this future, people in outlying districts don’t fare too well. Food is rationed and scarce for the outlying districts, and only the relatively well-to-do can afford heat and food enough to ward off Mr. Death. People are afraid to speak their mind for fear of being overheard by those evil bastards in Capital City.
In Capital City, the streets might as well be paved with gold when compared to the living arrangements of Kat and her family and most others in the outer districts. But after her father dies in a coal mining accident, Kat carries on the illegal task of ‘poaching’ – hunting in the unfenced forest outside the district to bring game home for trade and to feed her family. She and her hunting partner, an eighteen-year-old boy named Gale, have forged an alliance that benefits almost everyone in the district with extra food, and profitable trading eases the rules that would otherwise be imposed by the resident Peacekeepers.
Once a year, Capital City ‘reminds’ the other districts of their transgression of failed rebellion with the hugely promoted fanfare of The Hunger Games. Each district is required to furnish one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the survival game, which is to the death, with only one winner. That victory ensures the winner of an easy life and benefits of more food and other extras for the winner’s district. Kat has put in extra entries for herself in the lottery in exchange for extra portions of food and heating fuel for her family throughout the year. She waits tensely to see whose name is chosen for this year’s games. When her sister’s name is called, she immediately volunteers to go in her place.
Words fail me in trying to describe how absolutely perfect this story is. It is not simply the story itself, but the unique blend of plot, character development, and beautiful economy of words that all worked wonderfully together to make this an entirely believable and absorbing read. Many an author gets blinded by the light of a well-turned phrase, but Ms. Collins stays true to her writing task in that the writing skill remains invisible so the reading pleasure can be fully realized.
It has been, as I stated before, a very long time since I have read a young-adult novel-length story that was so emotionally moving without being over-dramatic or maudlin. Kat is the perfect heroine – tough and emotionally distant, yet in her own way caring and respectful of life. The way her attitudes and beliefs are pitted against the very fabric of the opulently excessive society that created the situation certain to cause her death is a stroke of writing genius. I am eager to see it repeated in the next installment of this trilogy, and can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of this series. Also I will be standing in line to see the movie version of this story and compare it to the graceful success of this book.
This is the kind of story that any author would be grateful and proud to have written, and it is an excellent example of superb writing. I have no idea how much careful and judicious editing was involved to create the final product, but for any author hoping to write well, no matter what the genre, I offer this book as a learning experience and enthusiastically recommend it to all readers. This is how it’s done!