Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games, Book 1
Author: Suzanne Collins
Rating: 5/5 stars
To be honest, this book shocked me. I'd been hearing nothing but great reviews about it from everyone, and when the online book club that I belong to selected it to read, I was happy to have a reason to pick it up. I didn't really know anything about it, just that everyone kept saying what a powerful book it is. And they aren't wrong.
The Hunger Games takes place in an undetermined future, in a country that is now known as Panem (once North America). Panem consists of the Capitol, the ruling city, and 12 districts surrounding the Capitol. Once, there were 13 districts, been during an uprising, the Capitol demolished the thirteenth district. As a constant reminder to the remaining twelve districts of its authority and power, each year the Capitol requires a pair of tributes from each district, one boy and one girl, be selected in a reaping and then be sent to participate in the Hunger Games, the ultimate in reality television; the Games are broadcast for the entire country to see. The idea is, each of the 24 tributes are places into the Arena, an ever-changing venue built each year for the Games, and they are forced to fight to the death, until there is only one tribute standing. That tribute's district is then honored for the next year.
Katniss Everdeen, 16, has been providing for her family ever since her father's death in a mining accident. Her best friend, Gale, has been providing for his large family as well. This will be Gale's last reaping. At the age of 18, he will no longer be required to participate if he is not chosen this year. Katniss' younger sister, Prim, barely has a chance of being chosen. At just 12, Prim's name will only be in the reaping once. However, when Prim's name is chosen, Katniss jumps to her defense and volunteers to go in her place. The other tribute from District 12, Peeta, helped Katniss years before, when she was on the edge of starvation, and she hates that she feel that she owes this boy and is still required to kill him if the opportunity presents itself.
Beyond this, I don't want to say much more, because any more that I reveal about the story will lessen it's impact when you read it. Needless to say, Suzanne Collins does not sugar-coat the necessity to kill your rivals in the Hunger Games. This is not an easy task for the participants, and Collins makes you aware of that every step of the way. The tributes are all very real, three-dimensional characters, each with their own agenda and tactics for staying alive. Collins does an amazing job of creating the conflicting feelings in Katniss; is it possible that she can be a good person, and a cold-hearted killer at the same time? Underneath the brutality and the crooked means by which the tributes are placed into their predicament, you can't help but feel pity for them; that they are forced into this situation against their will, and are forced to make such adult decisions at such a young age seems almost intolerable for them at times.
With a bleak and sometimes desperate story that is sprinkled throughout with glimpses of hope, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is a fast-paced, no holds barred thrill ride of a book, that will leave you literally hungry for more at the last page.