Suzanne Collins' first installment of her post-apocalyptic trilogy tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year old resident of District 12 (what used to be parts of Appalachia). Katniss comes off as a confident, sometimes even brash, teenage girl with a keen eye for hunting game. She and her best friend Gale routinely break the law, slipping under the District 12 fence to do what they do best: hunt.
Unfortunately for Katniss, my previous sentence was not a typo. Hunting any sort of game is considered a punishable offense according to the Capitol. This post-apocalyptic world isn't a pleasant one and the Capitol is hardly a peaceful ruling body. The 12 districts are forced to provide them with natural resources, yet the Capitol takes it a step further. Every year, they demand each district participate in what is aptly named, The Reaping. All 12 distrcits must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the dreaded Hunger Games, a sickening fight to the death between children. The unfortunate "winners" are then given the title of Tribute. Only one can leave the Hunger Games alive and thus, claim the title of victor...but at what cost?
I'll leave the rest of the story to you. As for my take on the book, I was honestly a little let down; however, I would still highly recommend it. Let me explain. Firstly, my expectations were probably too high going into the series. I expected something epic and what I got was just a solid, well-written novel with an intriguing story.
My biggest qualm with the book is a simple one: predictability. There were very few times I was shocked by an event or surprised at some of the "twists" throughout. Although incredibly brave and smart in her own right, Katniss is not a terribly good judge of people. Self-admittedly, she struggles with communicating her feelings throughout the book and is a terrible public speaker (also self-admitted). So while I saw almost everything before it was about to happen, Katniss seems stunned at the most obvious plot twists.
In her defense, you can never be too trusting in an arena full of 23 other teenagers whose only hope for freedom is to slit your throat. For that reason, I can forgive Katniss and understand Collins' reasoning in writing Katniss as such a cautious protagonist.
Aside from that, Katniss is a character I absolutely loved to read. The story is told through her eyes and you instantly relate to her from the very first page. Her strong bond with her younger sister Prim. Her longing for her deceased father. And her struggling relationship with her mother. There's something here for anyone to relate.
Katniss isn't the only strong character. Peeta Mellark is probably my favorite character of the entire series thus far. He keeps Katniss guessing throughout. Haymitch Abernathy and Cinna are two other characters you'll quickly grow to love or hate.
From a technical standpoint, The Hunger Games is a quick read and one most young adults should have no problem reading. Katniss isn't overly wordy and Collins does an excellent job of letting you see the bleak world through her eyes. As with many young adult novels, the primary concern for allowing a child to read or not is definitely subject matter. Many young people - children, even - die gruesome deaths throughout the Hunger Games. I expected Collins to shy away from this due to the young adult focus of the series; however, she stays true to her story and lets the reader in on all the grizzly details.
The Hunger Games will certainly draw comparisons to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga, mainly due to the complicated love triangle persistent in each series. However, that is where the comparisons should end. The Hunger Games is a tragic, unique tale that stands on its own as a bleak, all the while riveting, account of a seriously disturbing world. Part of what makes The Hunger Games so great is its ability to take part of the world we know, and totally twist it into a chilling future. The environment may be different; yet humans still find a way to live, love, and ultimately, a way to overcome. Expect to see this series catch even more fire (pun intended) as it hits the silver screen in March of this year.
4 out of 5.