This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My friend Olivia mentioned this book to me awhile back. Then I saw that QRB was having a big MockingJay debut "party", which in turn had me read more about this series. I knew it was quite popular and I wondered how I hadn't really heard the buzz until recently (The Hunger Games came out in 2008).

Then my other friend Kerry asked me if I had read the series, not once, but several times. "Have you read it yet?" I remember her asking me one day. "What is it about?" I asked and she said it was about these teens trying to kill one another. Um...*this* is what the buzz is about? Why on earth would anyone want to read that? In a series? Kerry's excitement behind these words concerned me. And despite the fact that Kerry and Olivia are respectable folk, they are very much alike, to me, in their preferred genres.

So I thought: one day I'll read it.

But they both had me very curious...

I added the book to my library request a few weeks ago. I was number 100-something. Eh, I thought. I am in no rush anyway. Let me read my book club choice, then the second and maybe third Harry Potter book, and perhaps I'll have it by then to read.

I got an email Wednesday that the book was ready to be picked up. That was quicker than I thought...I picked it up Thursday...and decided I would, yet again, put the HP book down and start on this one. If it's not really my thing, and I don't think it will be, I'll put it back down and finish HP.

So I started...then forced a hard stop at 11:30 PM Thursday evening. I made it to Chapter 4, about 49 pages. I had already cried. I had already felt the pain of what had happened, and the dread of what was about to happen.

Today, my birthday, I took advantage of my day: I finished the book. The only reason why I didn't finish it sooner is because I had to work, eat, sleep and see the Durham Bulls lose last night.

This is definitely an amazing novel. My favorite so far of the year. I don't foresee anything else challenging it...and if I declared a favorite before now, this trumps it.

It is dreadful, funny, riveting. I was a quarter through the book and thought: there are not enough pages left! It will end too soon. And as I got closer to the end, the more excited and sad I became: I will know the outcome and then it will be over.

Lucky for me, there are two more books left. And I don't have to wait for them to be released.

The novel is set, in what I think, is a post-Apocalyptic era. There is mention of the geographic area as once being called "North America" but now, the area is divided up into twelve districts under one governing city, the Capitol.

The twelve districts are working districts: coal mining, agricultural, etc. They are strictly governed and most of the inhabitants of these districts are poor and starved.

The protagonist of this story is Katniss Evergreen, a 16 year old girl, who hunts illegally past "the fence" that holds a boundary to her 12th district. Her father was killed in a coal mine accident, and she is left to fend for her remaining family: a desolate mother and her younger sister, Primrose.

Katniss has learned well from her father, who taught her (on purpose and by accident) how to hunt, to look for greens and berries around her, to trade in the black market, and who to trust in those trades. This is her strength at survival and she is able to keep her family from starving to death.

The novel opens during the day of the reaping: where one boy, and one girl, from each of the twelve districts, is chosen to represent their district in a nationwide, televised and celebrated game: The Hunger Games. Katniss has her name in the bowl twenty times. The name called for the boy of district 12: Peeta, a young boy Katniss has a vague memory of. The name of the girl: Primrose, Katniss' little sister. Who only had one slip of paper in the bowl for her name, since at 12 years old, it was her first year. Instead, Katniss volunteers to go in her sister's place.

The Hunger Games, after all, is a fight to the death, where only one can become victorious. We know this before the names are announced, so the panic - and for me - and surprise! was unnerving. The games were created as punishment for the 12 districts for a past uprising against the Capitol. Punish the people by taking their children, and thus, 24 kids, ages 12-18, will head off to an arena of sorts to survive the elements, and to kill each other, to come out alive and win a "free" pass to freedom from starvation and poverty.

It's a sick premise. It had my stomach in knots that anyone would get off on this. But I think back to the gladiators and other similar battles, that were well-celebrated.

It also has that element of Survivor - fending for yourself with what little supply you have, but also defending yourself from other kids. The entire time TV cameras follow each of the 12 "tributes", broadcasting it live across the nation. If the "story" becomes boring: no one is dying soon enough, the gamekeepers get involved by adding another element to make the kids come closer to battle.

What happens is captivating. I couldn't put the book down. There are no boring parts. Collins gets right to the point and does not drag anything out. She cleverly inserts history in the places that make sense and it all intertwines with the story. I wondered, as I started reading it Thursday, if the books got gradually thicker, much like the HP books do. My friend Audrey said that they didn't: about the same size through the trilogy. Fascinating that she could fit so much in so few pages (374 for the hardback version).

This will follow me around...the story that is. I will continue to reflect back...but only for a little bit as I hope to start on Catching Fire, the second in this trilogy, tonight.


  1. There's maps online of Panem superimposed on the United States. We live in District 11, 13 is up in Maine and that area, and 12 is in-between.
    For a week or so, I had three different people each borrowing one of the books. Now it's down to two.

  2. I meant to bring the remaining two books for you today. I'll try to remember tomorrow. If you're like me, you'll want to know what happens next!