I am usually not one for Dystopian novels but after hearing several raves about this book from some of the forums I frequent, I had to try it for myself. The premise sounded interesting enough. It did not disappoint. I blew through this book in about a day. The Hunger Games takes place in what was formerly North America. The country has reformed into Panem which is comprised of 12 districts and ruled by the Capitol. In order to keep the districts in line every year the government requires every teenager to participate in a lottery to be chosen for the Hunger Games. What are the Hunger Games? A televised fight to the death between the 24 teenage participants. When Katniss Everdeen's 12 year old sister Prim is chosen as the female representative of District 12, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Katniss and the boy "Tribute" Peeta from District 12 are whisked away to the Capitol to be given makeovers and training before they are thrust into the Arena to compete against the other 22 contestants for their lives.
What follows is a brutal blood bath in which the contestants slaughter each other and fight for survival. When Peeta and Katniss decide to use the angle that they are in love with each other it increases their popularity to the point where they become the two to beat in the Games. Now it remains to be seen who will come out of the Hunger Games alive as there can be only one victor.
I was completely enthralled with this book from the first chapter. The idea of the Hunger Games is gruesome but then so is the society of the people in the Districts. All are forced to live in poverty and treated as expendable except for those residing in the Capitol who have never wanted for anything. You might ask why the population wouldn't revolt against a government like the one depicted in the book but it is obvious that everyone is controlled by fear and the knowledge that the Capitol will wipe them out without a second thought if they speak out against the games. The Games themselves are highly imaginative with a team of people designing the area to contain hundreds of different hazards the contestants will face in addition to the threat they face from each other. For example. One year the arena was a wasteland, the next a frozen tundra in which many Tributes froze to death.
The characters are all interesting. Katniss' love of her family is evident as she sacrificed herself in place of her sister knowing she would have a better shot at winning the games because at least she has hunting skills. What she also has is a lot of spunk which impressed those in the Capitol making her a favorite going into the games. Peeta is a likable character and I found it hard figuring out if he really did have feelings for Katniss or if he was playing the romance angle for all it was worth to prolong their survival. Every District has a former victor of the Hunger Games for a mentor who will assist them from outside the arena during the Games and unfortunately for Katniss and Peeta, theirs is a drunk named Hamish (although he does give them good advice when he's not falling down drunk).
The other Tributes all had their own angle they were playing-one girl tries being the "sexy" one, another male contestant the intimidating one with the brute strength. As the games go on alliance are made and contestants are eliminated one by one in a variety of creative and savage ways.
I will not lie. The one thing I take issue with concerning this book is that it is named at young adults. It is violent and there is no way I would let a 12 year old read it. This book is kind of like Survivor meets Gladiator meets Miss Teen USA (considering the glamorous makeover, elaborate costumes, and interviews before a live TV audience). The issue of whether or not it is aimed at an appropriate age level aside, I really liked this book. It would not surprise me if this trilogy was made into a movie (and hopefully a PG13 movie if it is).
I got this book from the Fruitport Library