The Hunger Games takes place in an unidentified future time period after the destruction of North America, in a nation known as Panem. Panem consists of a wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts.
As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, every year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by lottery and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event in which the participants, or "tributes," must fight to the death in a dangerous, outdoor arena, controlled by the Capitol, until only one remains. The story follows fatherless 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12, who volunteers for the 74th Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose.
The Hunger Games is a novel (and series) I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. First a good friend of mine recommended it to me when she read it months ago, raving about it and telling me just how good it was, but even though this friend and I nearly always agree on books, I still didn’t pick it up. I think it may have been the horrific premise of the novel that put me off – 24 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 being thrown into an arena and being forced to fight to the death, the winner being the last one standing? It sounded gruesome and upsetting, especially for a book that is categorised as teenage fiction.
I have recently been coerced into reading the novel though, when another of my friends (who I go to University with) and my little brother – both of whom are obviously dangerously persuasive (or at least dangerously if they ever decided to use this attribute for anything other than convincing me to read a book). Anyway, I was finally
bullied swayed into reading it. I’m glad I was.
I’ll admit that around the first 30% of novel didn’t really live up to the expectations I’d already built around the book, but then again, it was the introduction to the dystopian world that the Hunger Games series is set in, and also the introduction to the characters and protagonist Katniss (which is a ridiculous name, but as were most of the other character’s names, although I have since fallen for the name Rue). Once the Hunger Games began in the novel though, I was completely gripped – I didn’t want to stop reading, it was so exciting! We are thrown immediately into the action, and I’ll admit, my heart was pounding as soon as Katniss set off.
Katniss’s character was quite good, although I did find myself wishing that she’d stop to think about what she was doing every once in a while, particularly with regard to Peeta, who I loved. It was obvious to me that everything he did was for her, but she seemed to have her mind stuck in the games, and seemed to refuse, despite the evidence, that he did actually like and want to protect her. Other than that, I thought she was a wonderful character – she’s brave, intelligent, loyal and strong-minded – and despite her flaws, I know I wouldn’t want her to be perfect – she just wouldn’t be a believable character if she was!
Although the book is categorized as YA/Teen, I definitely don’t think it should be confined to just this – it makes a great read for adults too. The plot is truly exciting and once in the Games themselves, fast-paced and action-packed. I loved that Katniss or Peeta did not lose their sense of identity just because they were in the arena and fighting to the death – we still see Katniss empathise with the other contestants and even become protective of a couple of them. Towards the end of the games we see the novel take another terrifying twist, that I definitely didn’t see coming, so the book definitely keeps the reader on their toes, as well as the characters! The end of the novel is left hanging on such a cliffhanger, that it’s going to be impossible for me to resist the second book for too long!
This is a must read for anyone marginally interested in Dystopian fiction, Fantasy or YA. I do also recommend it to others though – I think, like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!