Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
(Series: The Hunger Games, 2008; Catching Fire, 2009; and Mockingjay, 2010)
Not many books catch my interest the way the Hunger Games series did. When I first heard about it I was both horrified and curious about the books that graphically describe teenagers murdering each other – a theme that, although may seem inappropriate for youngish readers, has worked quite well in the history of the Young Adult genre. Take The Outsiders, for instance.
The series depicts a future morally bankrupt North America, called Panem, which is divided into twelve mostly-impoverished districts that must submit to the brutal authority of the controlling Capital. Every year Panem has the Reaping in which two tributes between the ages of twelve and eighteen are chosen from each district and placed in an arena where they are forced to fight to the death. The annual Hunger Games are a televised event the districts are required to watch to remind them of the Capital’s power over them as well as the devastation caused by the last uprising seventy-five years ago. In a nutshell, children are sacrificed as a clever manipulation tactic by a government with no regard for human life.
Katniss Everdeen is an extremely likeable heroine for three reasons: First, because she’s badass. The girl can shoot targets with her bow and arrows from one hundred feet away. Second, because she has a tragic back-story. Her father died in a mining explosion when she was only eleven. Shortly thereafter she became the sole provider of food via hunting and gathering for her grief stricken mother and younger sister, Prim. Third, well I guess I lied. There are a lot more than three reasons why Katniss rocks including her immediate willingness to volunteer for the Hunger Games in place of her sister, her survival instinct, and her humility just to name a few.
The author did an amazing job building the chemistry between Katniss and the prominent male characters of the story, Peeta and Gale. Subplots of maybe-sort-of-unrequited love are skillfully woven through adrenaline inducing fight scenes against fellow tributes, Capital-created mutations and eventually the Capital itself. Although far fetched, the story becomes believable in its telling and draws the reader into the thoughts and challenges of our protagonist until you see what she sees, feel what she feels and understand why she does what she does. Ultimately, The Hunger Games is edgy, addictive and almost made me want to take up archery. The books are as close to a “ten” as I am willing to give. Suzanne Collins, I genuflect before your genius.