The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is set in a future North America, where the land and the people have been split into thirteen districts led by the Capitol. Every year, one girl and one boy aged between 12 and 18 from each District are selected to compete in the compulsory Hunger Games: a game of survival. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers in the place of her sister Prim, she embarks on a brutal journey that takes her further than she could have ever imagined.
District 13 is a deserted nuclear wasteland, an example to the other Districts by the Capitol of what happens when a District revolts. But for those living in Districts 1 to 12, Katniss unintentionally becomes a beacon of hope.
It’s deep. Teenagers are pitted against each other on live television to kill; the winner being the survivor. But not only that, Katniss is one big ball of twisted emotion. Her mother’s prolonged grief for the death of Katniss’ father left Katniss to take responsibility for the family: hunting for food, trading on the black market and entering herself into the Hunger Games reaping more than once in exchange for tesserae. Katniss hates her mother for this, she misses her father and her fierce protectiveness of her twelve-year-old sister leads her into the games.
Despite the controversy that the books are very similar to Koushun Takami’s Japanese novel, ‘Battle Royale’, Collins claims the idea came from “channel surfing between reality TV programming and actual war coverage”. It’s a brilliant concept and very thought provoking.
Of course there is a romance sub-plot – after all, what’s teen fiction without a bit of romance? Normally, I find the romances dull and predictable in teen fiction, i.e. Twilight, but this keeps you hanging right until the very end. Each lover represents the different side of Katniss. Will she choose her childhood friend, hunting partner, her past, Gale, or will she fall for her fellow tribute, competitor, her future, Peeta?
The world Collins has created is brilliant. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s a clash of the Robin Hood days and futuristic sci-fi. The concept that each District produces different things for the Capitol, such as District 12 mines coal and District 11 focus on agriculture means that the tributes are dressed in representational costumes when presented to the Capitol. I’ve got to say, the resemblance between this scene and the athletes being lead out at the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, was uncanny and a little unnerving. Like I said, the story is thought provoking.
I don’t believe the books are written as strongly as they could be, but in Collins’ defence, her ability to leave every single chapter on a cliff-hanger meant I found the books impossible to put down. I read the three books in four days. I think the strongest is the first book, ‘The Hunger Games’. The second book, ‘Catching Fire’ is a bit repetitive, and the third, ‘Mockingjay’ is a tad weak also. Nevertheless, the ending gives you that unsatisfactory, unnerving feeling that happiness is lost. You experience Katniss’ numbness and are at a loss of what to do next. Collins leaves you staring at an empty bowl after licking it clean. You ‘re searching for more when there is nothing left. Overall, a brilliant read. 8/10.