Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins, author of the Underland Chronicles, a children’s fantasy series, has turned her hand to young adult fiction in the Hunger Games, the first of a futuristic trilogy that has already been snapped up by Lionsgate for its movie rights. The book’s heroine is Katniss, a 16 year old who lives in what used to be the United States but is now Panem, a country which consists of twelve “districts” under the absolute control of the Capitol city. There was an attempted rebellion by the districts in the past against the Capitol, which was unsuccessful. As a punishment and a deterrent for such future efforts, a televised battle to the death takes place every year, between young contestants chosen by lot from each district. These battles are staged like our reality television shows (except that their dazzling technological effects are way ahead of what we can do today).
Some of the districts are poorer than others, and Katniss comes from the poorest one. Although technically the richer contestants are better-fed and trained in combat, Katniss has fed her family by hunting, which has given her an edge in survival skills. You are immediately introduced into Katniss’ world, watching her forage for game in the woods next to her district, and the details of the society are easily explained and fit into the action. The lottery for choosing the candidates is one of the first events, yet Collins’ skill is such that you are already sharing Katniss’ apprehension and fear as it takes place. The novel is well-paced, with surprises and plot twists next to passages relating Katniss’ reactions to both the physical and the emotional challenges. 'Who will survive' is the hook that keeps you reading, yet the hook is stronger from the relationships that Katniss has with the other contestants, and how they are played out. This book has been recommended for girls and boys as well as adults, with special notice for boys who are reluctant readers!

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