Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: September 14, 2008 by Scholastic Press
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi Dystopian, Romance
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased at Barnes & Noble Bookstore
Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

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(Warning: Review may contain spoilers!)

We all have, at some point, learned or heard about a dystopian world. It is patently the opposite of utopia, where life is all good and in proper order. Dystopia focuses on what becomes of our world when the inhabitants have taken less care of the environment. It is commonly imagined as a place where everything is in a repugnant state and cruel totalitarianism is practiced.

Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, which is the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy, is set in a dystopian world called Panem, the post-apocalyptic equivalent of North America. It is a country that consists of an affluent Capitol with surrounding twelve districts—District One being the most prestigious, District Twelve being the least. Back in the days, the thirteenth district sparked up a rebellion against the Capitol that resulted in its own destruction and the creation of the annual Hunger Games, where each district is required to send one boy and one girl to fight to their deaths in live television. It is the Capitol's way of reminding the districts of their power and grace. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen's little sister, Prim, is randomly drawn to become District Twelve's female tribute for the Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Then, alongside District Twelve's male tribute, Peeta Mellark, Katniss is forced into the ever changing arena to fight bigger and stronger tributes from other districts and be the last one standing.

One of the things that I truly admire about The Hunger Games is Katniss's character. For a sixteen-year-old, she is a pretty strong woman who knows how to survive on her own. Years of hunting and providing for her family has sculpted her into this young woman that possesses an impressive vast range of capabilities. She is warmhearted, compassionate, and quick-witted. But what I like the most about Katniss is her keen interest in food. It's really nice to read scenes in the book where the characters are eating their meal, and Katniss will constantly comment about how delicious the food is, how much she's putting on her plate, and so on. Perhaps my most favorite is when she will tear a chunk of roll and she'll dunk it in hot chocolate before she eats it—it is one of the things she learned from observing Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are like the walking and talking Yin and Yang. I like how they contrast each other's personalities, and yet, they balance one another effectively. Peeta mellows Katniss out, considering that she's the "sullen and hostile" one between the two, while Katniss sharpens Peeta. She encourages him to believe in his own potential, in his own strength, when he doesn't seem to trust in himself.

The other thing that I like about The Hunger Games is the two tributes from District Two: Cato and Clove. There is this one particular scene that I really like solely because of the aforementioned tributes: the scene of the feast. Katniss's face is about to get sliced by one of Clove's sharp knives, but Thresh suddenly appears out of nowhere and grabs Clove off of Katniss. When the reality of Thresh about to slam a rock the size of a loaf of bread against her skull finally settles in, Clove cries out Cato's name in sheer panic. Katniss describes Cato's screams as pained, especially when he apparently spots Clove lifeless on the ground. She witnesses the moment when Cato kneels beside Clove as he begs her to stay with him. Collins may not have emphatically highlighted the two's relationship other than that they are from the same district and are both part of the Careers alliance, but the small interaction between the District Two tributes in that specific scene sort of transmits a message to me that, although they seem menacing and vicious and lethal in the arena, Cato and Clove still somewhat have something soft within them. They have something that makes them human, still.

The book has romance, of course, but it's not much of a bother that it makes you want to change your mind about the story completely.

As far as recommending the book, if you are someone who is really into dystopian worlds and blood and young love in times of life and death, you may want to pick this up—that is if you haven't read it yet. But who hasn't read the book anyway? Ever since the movie came out, the books have hit the shelves like a raging storm.

Overall, I really like the inclusive concept of The Hunger Games. I personally thought that it is a very fast read jam-packed with enthralling happenings, and I absolutely enjoyed it . . . even the second time around. (Yes, I reread the book. I purchased the box set, and I thought that if I really want to engage in the world of Katniss Everdeen, then I might as well read the first book again.)

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Suzanne Collins is the author of the bestselling Underland Chronicles, which started with Gregor the Overlander. In The Hunger Games, she continues to explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. Suzanne lives with her family in Connecticut.

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