Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Those of you who follow my blog regularyly might remember that I´ve spent three days last week in my very own litte “Hunger Games Read-a-thon”. I literally read everywhere how amazing this series is and contest and the hype for Mockingjay, the final book in the series, is huge. So, after putting my initial scepticism, I finally started reading them.
“Hunger Games” is the first book in Suzanne Collins´s dark and gripping dystopian young adult novel.
“Hunger Games” introduces the reader to a land that used to be America but has now changed dramatically. Divided into 12 Districts and in the iron grip of the Capitol.
In this world, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the coal mining district. She lives with her mother and her little sister in Ther Seam, where people suffer from hunger and starvation almost regularly. To spare her family this very fate, is willing to do almost everything. After the death of her father very early in her life, she was forced to take resposibility for her sister and mother. That´s why she hunts illegally with her best friend Gale in the woods, which is highly illegal.
One day, a very special event is about to happen: the reapings, a ceremony where the Tributes for the annual Hunger Games are chosen. Hunger Games are a gruesome reminder of the power of the seemingly allmighty Capitol: in every District has to send two children, one boy and one girl between 12 and 18 years, into an arena where they have to fight til death until inly one is left alive.
This year, against all odds, Prim, the 12 year ols sister of Katniss is chosen, but without a moment of hesitation, Kantiss takes her place. At this moment, a emotional powerful, disturbing and moving journey to the Capitol and the HUnger Games begins for Jatniss and her fellow Tribute Peeta.
Suzanne Collins takes her time to introduce her readers to the cruel and gloomy world of Katniss and writes skillfully about the daily struggle for survival. For me, the Katniss´s detached point of view was sometimes really disturbing. The story picks up the pace when Katniss begins together with Peeta the journey to the Capitol where they are faced with a totally different world: the incredible luxury, decadece and also their often inhumane bahavior.
They also meet their mentor Haymitch, the only tribute from Distric 12 who has survived and won the Hunger Games. Haymitch is a broken man, who tries to find oblivion and relief by drowning his thoughts in alcohol.
Effie, their escort, who is at first sees them only as job and chance to start a carreer but slowly becomes attached to Peeta and Katniss.
Cinna, stylist and soon confidant and friend of Katniss. He is for a great part responisble for their early success and creates Katniss image of the Girl on Fire. Even though he is resident of the capitol, her seems to be one of the few people who see the games for what they really are rather than some twisted kind of entertainment.
Even though the Tributes from Distric 12 are usually considered outsiders, Katniss and Peeta manage to win over the crowds with the help of their team. One day however, the day when they have to face each other in the arena finally arrives.
The thought of children having to murder each other live on TV in a nation wide show is absolutly apalling and the enthusiasm the watchers of the Capitol show is simply disgsting, just like the cold-bloodedness of how they sell Katniss and Peeta´s relationship as “star-crossed lovers”
Even though Katniss is a very strong character who is used to survival, the Ganes are a whole new level. While she never feels any guilt about killing someone in the arena in order to survive, she knows she can´t kill to contestants: Rue, a 12 year old girl that reminds her strongly of her own sister and Peeta. Ever since he once gave her bread for her family and earning his mother´s anger for that, sh feels indebted to him. Because of that debt, she tries avoiding having to kill him, until an announcement of the Gamemakers that both tributes of one District can survive.
The events in the arena build up to a shocking, surprisng and moving finale that not only ends this book perfectly, but also makes the way for book two, “Catching Fire”.
You could write so much about this book: how Suzanne Collins has managed in a disturbingly realistic way to create a not thus far fetched vision for the future with socio-critical elements that should all make us think. Or Gouvernment control, being constantly watched and reality shows the border on inhumane, just to name a few.
But one thing makes “The Hunger Games” so perfect for me: the way how it creates such an gamut of emotins. How it makes you feel the oppressive and hopeless atmosphere in the Seam, the shocked consternation about the (wilful?) ignorance of the residents of the Capitol, the cruelness of the Careers and the ease they kill each other with. How it made me cry (seriously) for Peeta and Katniss. How Rue´s funeral brought tears in my eyes. How I held my breath at the very end, hoping for any solution. I could continue with this list for a long time.
Hunger Games is a powerful, addictive novel that shocks you yet still keeos you glued to the pages with its complex characters and strong, suspensful and enthralling story.
5 of 5 points from me.