I think I may have been one of the few that hadn’t heard anything about the Hunger Games trilogy before this year. I didn’t know what it was about, what sort of reaction it had garnered or even that a film was in development when I picked up the first in the series. Of course, that has now all changed, but I’m very pleased I came to the series cold, able to read it for what it was without being tainted by all the hype. But that doesn’t change the fact that the book is one of the most enjoyable page-turners I’ve had the pleasure to read in quite a while.
The Hunger Games are a yearly event run by the Capitol with two participants (one boy, one girl) from each of the twelve districts selected by lottery, all of whom are children between the ages of 12 and 18. The games are a fight to the death in a specially created arena, the winner of which being the last one alive, viewed as entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol while those in the districts are forced to watch. It is now the 74th annual Hunger Games and it is through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen (who took her sisters place to save her) that we see them unfold, from the early Reaping to the grand finale.
I think the first thing to say was that I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games. I blasted through it in only a couple of sittings and just couldn’t read it quick enough. The writing was easy to read, the plot and characters interesting and it had the big ‘one more page’ factor. Saying that, I did have some issues with the book, but nothing major – it’s just that its YA nature does impose limitations on what content can be included.
The plot is a fairly simple one, and simplicity often gives good results, but it’s the characters that really help The Hunger Games to be what it is. Katniss is an avid hunter in the wilds beyond District 12’s fence border (an illegal activity, but one she gets away with) and it’s through her experiences hunting that allow the games themselves to be much more interesting than they could have been. However, it’s her personal life that really affects the story – she’s the main breadwinner for her household after her father’s passing and her mother’s subsequent breakdown, and it’s the protectiveness that she has over her younger sister Prim that makes her volunteer for the games in her place. Peeta is the male participant from District 12, and his story grows very much throughout the events leading up to, and including, the games. It’s also his relationship with Katniss that makes the novel an interesting read, and trying to figure out Peeta’s true motives takes up much of the novel.
The few issues I had with The Hunger Games are minor, but they did affect my overall thoughts on the story. Firstly, there is little exploration of the world and how civilisation got to where it is. Perhaps the main point that’s missing is that outside of Panem we don’t actually hear or know a thing about the wider world. I found this a little strange, but within the confines of the story I was able to accept things as they were. Going into this aspect could have opened a can of worms for the story, but I think it could also have widened its scope considerably. The only other real issue I had was that as a book about a death games tournament I found it a little strange that it’s also a YA one. The descriptions used were okay and weren’t too over the top, but the YA nature did limit what Collins could do here. However, with the way things are nowadays she was able to include a fair amount more than I thought she would with regards to the games.
The Hunger Games was a pleasure to read. It’s easy to pick at the little things, but at the end of the day I very much enjoyed The Hunger Games and the story it delivered, so much so that the following books in the trilogy (Catching Fire & Mockingjay) are promoted to my next reads – I must know the whole story!