There are a lot of books published in recent years that I just had not had the opportunity to read until now. I seem to be one of those people who doesn’t pay attention to trends and ends up discovering great books and TV shows after they were already popular. Oh well, it’s who I am. But having recently purchased some best-selling books from the mid 2000s at my grad school’s library sale and having asked for some books for Christmas, I thought it might be fun to write about my impressions of these books. I’m calling it my “I’ve been meaning to read that” series.
First up is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, published in 2008. I admit I was skeptical at first because of all the hype surrounding it. A few years ago I tried reading the Twilight series just to see what all the fuss was about and ended up quitting after the third book. Plus I hadn’t read a YA book since Shatter Me, and we all know how I felt about that…the horror. But my wise cousin-in-law (is that a word?) convinced me to give The Hunger Games a try.
I finished it in three days, and found it to be pretty darn awesome! Though the book doesn’t contain profanity, sex, or gore, I was surprised at the intensity of some of the violence. For anyone who doesn’t know, the basic premise is that a totalitarian government forces the citizens of each of its twelve districts to offer up a “tribute” of one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to complete in a deathmatch called the Hunger Games. Kind of like The Running Man for teenagers, but in some ways a lot darker. Suzanne Collins pulls no punches in describing how brutal The Capitol is. Under their rule, starving farmers are beaten for eating their own crops, and those who commit treason have their tongues cut and are forced to work as unpaid servants. It’s subtle details like these that really made the setting seem real to me. And the description of the violence inside the arena is graphic enough to make an impression, but not so over-the-top that it reads like a Bret Easton Ellis book.
The setting and story are great, and the characters are equally good. The protagonist, Katniss, is a strong and intelligent girl, but Collins takes the time to also show the readers her vulnerability. The book as all the themes that make for a great story: love, self-sacrifice, individuality, and defiance. It’s a gripping story full of ups and downs and plenty of surprises. And yes, I cried when Rue died. I’m not made of stone!
So while the concept has been done before, The Hunger Games is worth the hype and a great read that I think even non YA fans can enjoy. It contains everything that Shatter Me sorely lacks (a plot, conflict, intelligible writing). And with the very talented Jennifer Lawrence (rent Winter’s Bone and you’ll see what I mean) cast as Katniss in the upcoming film adaptation, I’m looking forward to seeing the movie as well.