Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: The Hunger Games

It's not every day that a best-selling author recommends someone else's book on her website. Back in September, Stephenie Meyer did just that (click here and scroll down to the entry for September 17th) (Yes, I subscribe to the RSS feed for stepheniemeyer.com. So what?). She raved about this book called The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

It took a while for the Tucson libraries to get on board, but they eventually purchased a few copies and I finally got to read it last week.

I loved it. You already know my feelings about science fiction, and The Hunger Games is definitely still science fiction. But I still loved it. I don't know, maybe it's time to re-evaluate my sci-fi position.

The premise, briefly, is this: Years into the future, America is a place called Panem split into 13 districts, ruled by the Capitol. Each year, the Capitol hosts a mandatory-viewing, live-televised fight to the death, with one boy and one girl required to participate to represent each district. There's only one winner. The heroine of the novel is Katniss Everdeen, chosen by lottery to represent District 12.

If the story sounds brutal, that's because it is. Behind the Young Adult label is a very serious novel dealing with grown-up themes like war, mob mentality, violence, the human survival instinct, and lengths to which people will go to create "entertainment." While I was interested in the plot, complete with the obligatory teenage romance, I found myself thinking about those larger issues long after I was finished reading the book.

The irony of this fascinating book is that while I, the reader, was horrified with the citizens of Panem for being glued to their televisions watching what was essentially state-sanctioned, televised murder, I myself was glued to a novel, reading about state-sanctioned, televised murder. It was absolutely gripping.

I've read or watched stories similar in one way or another to this one before, but this is the first one that has combined so many elements into a cohesive whole. It's a little bit "The Lottery," a little bit Survivor, some Lord of the Flies, with a kind of Truman Show feel. I even felt a tiny bit of Shannon Hale influence in the characters' names, traits, and the world they lived in.

For those of you who are not Twilight fans, fear not: this book really has nothing to do with that series except that happens to be recommended by the author. Don't let that scare you away. If you are a Twilight fan, however, then take Stephenie Meyer's word for it - this is a great book.


Liz Johnson said...

Huh. That book sounds really intense. I'm sticking with "Pushed" for now. :)

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Michelle said...

I so agree with you there. I left the book feeling a little guilty for enjoying it so much when I was horrified at the idea of the Games.

AmandaStretch said...

I just read this last night (from 11:30 PM to 3:30 AM) and absolutely loved it. The pacing was brilliant and I was glued to every page.

Just as a side-note, while it could sort of be classified as sci-fi, I'd put it more in the dystopian fiction category, so you can like it without liking sci-fi. ;)

Must . . . get my hands . . . on the second book . . .


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