With all the hype surrounding The Hunger Games and a film adaptation on its way, I decided to finally check it out and bought it for my Kindle. Comparisons between Twilight and its Edward vs. Jacob had already crossed my radar, as I knew fans of The Hunger Games were already fiercely debating between Peeta and Gale. Also in my mind was its "Young Adult" category, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I quite enjoy reading "YA" books. Last summer, I felt like I was re-living my childhood by reading quite a few YA fantasy books. Furthermore, I knew that this was branded as "dystopian science-fiction", which brings to mind 1984, Equilibrium, The Truman Show, and other such "dystopian" worlds with which I am familiar. Lord of the Flies is another comparison I'd make, as it involves the isolation of young people with horrific and barbaric results.
Anyway, with all these preconceptions in mind, it took awhile to get "lost" in the book. After three or four chapters, I felt like I had gotten the hang of it and was soon immersed in the world of Panem. Readers are introduced to District 12 through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl who effectively puts food on the table for her mother and younger sister by illegally hunting in the woods outside the fence that surrounds their district. The readers are dropped into the story on the day of "reaping", when the tributes are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games. It's interesting how Collins slowly reveals layers of information about Katniss, District 12, and even Panem itself. She doesn't provide too much too soon, which I liked. Collins splits her book into three parts and details the build-up to the Games through the reaping and the preparation of the tributes, the actual Games, and then finally, the end of the Games and the aftermath of the results.
Interspersed throughout the glitz and glamor of the Capitol and the action-packed sequence of events in the Games itself are little hints of barbarism. I felt myself questioning what Collins was trying to say about society today, but ultimately the social commentary was few and far between. There are moments where I was hopeful that there would be some philosophic breakthrough, such as Peeta's desire to show the Gamemakers that he isn't just a mere pawn in their games.
However, there weren't any follow-through moments as I didn't feel as if the Games actually fundamentally changed any of the characters. (Spoiler, perhaps?) I would have liked to see more character development with all of the characters. Perhaps one of the reasons none of the characters seemed to be affected by the Games is the fact that the population of Panem has been effectively desensitized to the violence over a period of 70+ years. Is this perhaps a warning towards desensitization in our own culture, with violence being prevalent in news stories, film/television, and video games?
That being said, I thought that the love story was well done. Without revealing too much for those who haven't read the series, I liked how it evolved and the love triangle didn't feel contrived to me, as with Edward/Bella/Jacob in the Twilight series. Additionally, I think that Katniss provides a strong role model for young female readers of the series, which is always a good thing in my opinion.
Overall, Collins spins a great story and I turned each page eagerly, wanting to know more and anticipating what happens in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The characters, whether likable or not, were engaging and the story is interesting enough to warrant further reading.
Catching Fire review