Thursday, November 26, 2009
"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 out of 5
Where the book came from: borrowed from local library
Synopsis from Amazon.com:
From Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Megan Whalen Turner If there really are only seven original plots in the world, it's odd that boy meets girl is always mentioned, and society goes bad and attacks the good guy never is. Yet we have Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The House of the Scorpion—and now, following a long tradition of Brave New Worlds, The Hunger Games. Collins hasn't tied her future to a specific date, or weighted it down with too much finger wagging. Rather less 1984 and rather more Death Race 2000, hers is a gripping story set in a postapocalyptic world where a replacement for the United States demands a tribute from each of its territories: two children to be used as gladiators in a televised fight to the death.Katniss, from what was once Appalachia, offers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, but after this ultimate sacrifice, she is entirely focused on survival at any cost. It is her teammate, Peeta, who recognizes the importance of holding on to one's humanity in such inhuman circumstances. It's a credit to Collins's skill at characterization that Katniss, like a new Theseus, is cold, calculating and still likable. She has the attributes to be a winner, where Peeta has the grace to be a good loser.It's no accident that these games are presented as pop culture. Every generation projects its fear: runaway science, communism, overpopulation, nuclear wars and, now, reality TV. The State of Panem—which needs to keep its tributaries subdued and its citizens complacent—may have created the Games, but mindless television is the real danger, the means by which society pacifies its citizens and punishes those who fail to conform. Will its connection to reality TV, ubiquitous today, date the book? It might, but for now, it makes this the right book at the right time. What happens if we choose entertainment over humanity? In Collins's world, we'll be obsessed with grooming, we'll talk funny, and all our sentences will end with the same rise as questions. When Katniss is sent to stylists to be made more telegenic before she competes, she stands naked in front of them, strangely unembarrassed. They're so unlike people that I'm no more self-conscious than if a trio of oddly colored birds were pecking around my feet, she thinks. In order not to hate these creatures who are sending her to her death, she imagines them as pets. It isn't just the contestants who risk the loss of their humanity. It is all who watch.Katniss struggles to win not only the Games but the inherent contest for audience approval. Because this is the first book in a series, not everything is resolved, and what is left unanswered is the central question. Has she sacrificed too much? We know what she has given up to survive, but not whether the price was too high. Readers will wait eagerly to learn more.Megan Whalen Turner is the author of the Newbery Honor book The Thief and its sequels, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia."
Before starting the book I didn't let myself read any other reviews so that I could create my own opinions of the story. I hate to know too much before I start. For this reason with movies I like to only see a preview once or twice so I can be more surprised by the actual finished product. Although I enjoyed the book it didn't go as quickly as I thought it would. The first time I picked it up I only got a few pages and then put it down and read a few other books. When I picked it up the second time I got into it right away. While I understood the premise of the Hunger Games I also had an inkling of the outcome because this book is the first in a series, it might have been better to have it be a stand alone novel. Also, I didn't care for the open ended way it ended. I know it needed to be left open for the next book, and I am lucky that I waited this long to read the first since now I can move right on to the second, but it reminded me a bit of the openness of the endings for the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. Like the end of a season of a tv show that leaves you hanging so you'll tune in again in the fall. To me, if the writing is good I will go back for more by the same author and about the same characters even if I am not being teased by a cliff hanger. Perhaps with YA books this is more common to keep younger readers hooked.
The story this first called to mind for me was "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. Usually when we think of having our name chosen from a bowl winning is the desirable option, but in both of these stories it is what everyone is crossing their fingers hoping against. Kind of like sacrificing virgins to the gods hoping for favor, they seem like pointless rituals from the outside.
Haymitch, the advisor to Peeta and Katniss, the two tributes from District 12, is described as frequently being drunk. Haymitch was the winner of the Hunger Games many years before and I wondered if his alcohol abuse could be tied to the horrors he experienced and the kills he may have had to make as a player in the game. How much of themselves do the tributes give up in order to survive? Is it better to die yourself or to compromise what you believe in to win and make things a little better for your district? Do the winners lives ever go back to normal? If not should they want them too since starvation and hardship seem to be the norm? Will there be a way for the winners to share whatever they have earned by winning with their district and should they even be asked to? I also wondered how the rules worked for winners- would their names continue to be put into the lottery if they were under 18 or would they be dismissed for their prior service?
I admired Katniss for stepping forward to take her sisters place and for using what she had learned poaching in the woods to keep herself alive. Peeta's enduring love was encouraging at a time when they had so little. The alliances that were formed in the arena reminded me of "Survivor" especially in that they turned on each other and had ulterior motives for teaming up. I really had an issue with the people living int the capital. If they had so much why couldn't they share to keep people in the districts from starving? Did the people from the districts ever had the chance to more to the capital or did you have to be born there? If the wealth was shared and the fences removed would there even be a cause for the people to rebel again? Some great issues were addressed in this book. Whenever a story inspires so many questions I think of it as a good book for meaningful discussions.
I will definitely be reading the next book, "Catching Fire" to see where Collins takes the story!