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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Hunger Games: The Hunger Games Review

Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games
Book No: 1
Available in: Mass Market Paperback, Paperback, Kindle
Estimated Price: $12.25 [Buy and Save at Amazon]
No. of Pages: 384


Very rarely does an actual generation come along and bring a book that tops the financial and critical highs. For the older days, there was The Lord of the Rings, Charles Dickens books, and Stephen King books. This generation has seen quite a lot more. Infamously popular books like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (you could call it The Girl With series, I suppose) will come around imported from other countries. Same thing goes for The Hangman's Daughter. However, despite how popular books have become this generation, partly due to the eBook rage, there could be one that really stood out for both children and adults: The Hunger Games.

Now describing Hunger Games would be a lot more easier than summarizing it, so here's the main structure of the series (along with the self-titled book here): Katniss Everdeen, along with her family of her mother and Primrose Everdeen (both named after plants, it is cheesy), live in District 12, a roaring capitol district home to woods that are oozing wealth and an underground market area in a sci-fi setting. Every year, in order to salvage control over the districts, the Capitol has to make children compete in the Hunger Games. Each children is at least chosen once. Your name is chosen in a slip of paper once at 12, when you become elligible. At thirteen, twice. Fourteen, three times, etc. In all 12 districts (there were originally 13, but District 13 was bombed), this rule applies. You can also enter your name in for a tesserae, which will enter your name slip in several more times each one. Katniss, the protagonist of course, has her name entered in 20 times. In each district, one girl and one boy are chosen, so it's a 24-member free-for-all. Last one standing wins.

Katniss is not chosen, however. Her younger sister, Prim, is chosen, with a slim to none chance. However, Katniss volunteers, which you can do if you are related. This has almost never happened. That just goes to show how angry you can feel at family trust, because not even older siblings will help you, but Katniss decides to (figuratively) sacrifice herself for Prim. The boy is Peeta Mellark, who is a son of a local underground market baker. He first had a major interaction with Katniss when her family was starving and gave her fresh loaves of bread to make sure she didn't starve. It turns out later that Peeta is in love with her, furiously, but Katniss takes this as a strategy in the arena to help earn audience approval. Their mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, decides this is the case.

That's basically the all-around story for this debut. This was the first time I had ever been introduced to a Suzanne Collins book, so I was outright impressed in every sense of the word. The Hunger Games is haunting. It's violent, scary, romantic, epic, suspenseful, and thought-provoking. Evil. The world of Panem is an interesting, unique experience.

One of the things you can relate to in the book is how realistic this utterly fictional book is. The dystopian districts you can relate to if you think about it. The Capitol is harshly strict about how people talk about them. Utter a single joke about them and they'll whip you until you're blind and have no feeling in your limbs. They can torture you. (Though torture doesn't vividly happen until the second book, more so in the third) They're your master, you're their puppets. Play be their rules, you may live to see daylight again tommorow.

There's a good blend of action and romance. Peeta and Katniss's staged relationship in the camera-littered arena (for Katniss, it's staged, that is) is one of the main points of the book. When Peeta's leg is horribly mangled by a sword from another opponent, Katniss does everything in her power to help, but Peeta easily comes off as the stronger, in terms of protectiveness and devotion to the other partner, and more sacrificial one, going to radical extremes to try and save her life, just narrowly killing himself in between to help her see their beloved district. And the violence, though not explicit as it is in other books, is quite expressive here. There is a violent death somewhere before the third part of the book, and a very emotional one, in fact. There's other sacrifices made by the other arena opponents as well, including a death towards the end that was vital to Katniss and Peeta's survival.

The arena is an interesting place to visualize. It's a large, temperature-controlled, outdoor arena full of caves, trees, and beach shores. There's a lot of hiding in trees, behind-rocks, and stealth involved in the strategies in the arena.

There's a large sense of humor involved in the Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta's almost innocent poking fun at their mentor, Haymitch's alcohol addiction. Silly comments about the Capitol accent. There's a dark sense of humor that powers through Hunger Games' intense, though somewhat ridiculous, storyline.

The characterization in The Hunger Games is fantastic. The psychotic, oddly hollow nature of Cato, primarily the "antagonist" in the arena. Katniss's stealthy, quickly violent techniques, but good heart of personality. Peeta's heartwarming devotion and assistance with Katniss. Even Katniss's seemingly stupid prep team have some of the best personalities in a book. This isn't a book where only the primary or main secondary characters in the book are enjoyable. The arena fighters that have an interaction with Katniss, even including her sister Prim and her hunting friend Gale (both of which are not exactly developed enough until the later books)  have distinct personalities and natures to them.

The writing. Oh my god. The descriptions in Hunger Games are boundary-smashing, they're groundbreaking in every meaning of the word. The endings of each chapter are suspenseful and full of questions, which can keep you turning the page. The close, careful, patient details put into describing the arena, Panem, and interactions with characters. The kisses between Katniss and Peeta are descriptive. Everything about the series has been written with care. The author actually means to suck you in and are devoted. Whereas I thought Collins' previous novels, like the notorious Gregor, were good, but were flawed and didn't have enough details and character development. Hunger Games is a greatly mixed bag of details and writing techniques.

Could quite possibly be one of the greatest books of this decade, and of all time. Highly recommended.

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