After having heard nothing but, and a whole lot of, rave reviews for this book, I figured it deserved a chance, even though I probably would have passed on it after reading the blurb. A story about children killing each other to win a game? It sounded way too brutal and gory for me, but my Raverly group, Audiobook knitters, were all swearing it was brilliant, so I took the plunge. I was glad I did.
The Hunger Games is the first of a trilogy depicting a very changed North America which is now called Panem and consists of The Capitol and 12 districts. There was at one time a 13th district, but it was annihilated by The Capital after a rebellion as a lesson to all the other districts. The Capital also inflicted another punishment on the remaining districts, meant as a permanent reminder of their failure to win the revolt, The Hunger Games. Every year, each district must choose one boy and one girl to attend The Hunger Games where they will be dropped into an arena and forced to kill each other until there is only one left alive. Everyone must watch The Games. Everyone must be reminded of the hold The Capital has over the district and their inhabitants. Everyone must see how brutal The Capital can be, the message being that if you subjugate yourself, you will be spared, but those who try and revolt or go against The Capital in any way, will die a horrible death.
As I said, I expected quite a lot of brutality, but Collins handled it very, very well. Her characters were rebellious enough to not be wishy-washy, but she avoided giving them false bravado or too many super human traits, so they remained real. As a result, the plot remained plausible. She also brought just the right balance of survival and justice into the arena, avoiding mass slaughter just for the sake of blood and gore. I guess that’s what made this book so good; Collins balanced it all really well. It was a bit of a tight rope act because going one way or the other in many cases would have sent the book plummeting over the edge, losing either its plausibility or its suitability for the intended age group. She manages to balance justice, reality and reason in just the right proportions to make this book an excellent read for anyone over the age of 12.
The added bonus is that it’s just the kind of book you need to get kids interested in thinking, whether it be about government, fairness, reality, oppression or starvation. There are so many directions you could take a discussion on this book, it’s almost impossible to think of them all.
This one gets a 5 out of 5 from me on all fronts and I will definitely be reading the sequels.