The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
This is the book that made me want to finally catch up on my reviews. I’d been hearing about it for months and it was being reviewed all over the place in the mainstream media so once I got my hands on it, I was shocked not to have been disappointed by it. I could not put it down except to tell other people they should read it. Never having read Battle Royale, and having only hazy memories of the movie, I don’t know how the two compare and how much was stolen from the earlier book, but I’m guessing it had quite a bit of commentary on post-war Japanese society. Hunger Games takes place in our post-apocalyptic future, and the only easy comparisons are to our celebrity and reality television culture.
Briefly, the country is divided into districts that supply the capitol with different goods and services. Every year, a lottery is held in each district to pick a boy and a girl to be sent to the capitol as a reminder of and penance for their recent(ish) civil war. The 24 teenagers are put into an arena where they fight to the death while televised across the nation.
Katniss is from District 12, the poorest region. Which has given her an upper hand because she knows how to hunt and has been fighting for survival her whole life. She also proves to be expert at manipulating her situation: with cameras on her 24/7 she knows that winning the battle for the public’s sympathy is as important as hand-to-hand combat. The deus ex machina aspect that Stephen King criticized in his review to me was a critical part of showing how Katniss was skilled at manipulating her situation.
Because of Katniss’ skill at just about everything thrown at her (yes, she’s hypercompetent, but not egregiously so) if the ending seems clear, the twisted ways Collins gets there are the real fun. There are supposed to be two more in the series, and I’m dying to know where this story goes. There’s romance and relationships and lots of death and danger, and I really think (thanks in part to the cover art) that boys and girls will be willing to read this book.