Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Battle to the death

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins--I must admit I was not prepared for the level of violence in this book. Ms. Collins does not stint on the graphic descriptions of how her characters meet their various ends in this post-apocalyptic dystopia. In short, the Hunger Games are a way for the government country of Panem to control the residents of its twelve districts. There used to be thirteen, but after an uprising by the districts:
Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth obliterated. The Treaty of Treason gave us the new laws to guarantee peace and as our yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated, it gave us the Hunger Games.

 The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.
  Yes. It says "fight to the death." Girls and boys, ages twelve to eighteen, are randomly selected--or, in some cases, volunteer--to kill each other. The games, a lethal form of "Survivor", are televised to the entire country, and everyone must watch. The winner gets riches and recognition, both of which are untold luxuries in most of the districts, where hunger is the everyday norm.

Enter sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen. When her sister, Prim, is called to participate in the Games at age twelve, Katniss rushes to take her place. She knows that her hunter's skills, illicitly perfected in the wilds just beyond the District Twelve fence, will give her a chance to survive. Gentle Prim, a healer, has no such advantage.

The dangers Katniss faces are not just external. In addition to the other tributes and the conniving Gamemakers, she must re-evaluate her own view of who she is. Because this is the first book of a trilogy, we only see the beginning of Katniss's self-discovery. We do see how she wins the Games (which is never in doubt, or it would be a very short trilogy), but are left hanging in the aftermath. Katniss is a believable character, and we care how she will handle life after the Games.

This book is on both the Junior and the Young Adult lists, a singular distinction.

No comments:

Post a Comment