Rarely do I find a book so addictive and compelling that I find it nearly impossible to put down. This was the first in a very long time. First of all, the characters are perfectly flawed as to be completely wonderful. Even Haymitch, who you kind of want to hate until you realize most people would have been driven to drink after what he has suffered. And Cato, who from a narrative stand point you should hate until you realize he’s just doing the same thing Katniss is: trying to survive in a world that wants him dead. Granted, he is much more brutal about it, but that was the way he was taught. Not to mention Katniss herself. She’s impulsive, temperamental, and moody when it comes to things about their society, but she’s also strong, intelligent, and fiercely loyal. With such an amazing cast of characters, it’s easy to see why this book is so popular.
Set in a futuristic dystopian society, it’s a non-forgiving look on society’s obsession with reality TV, brutality, and yes, sexuality, but we’ll deal with that later. Much like the Roman Games, the Hunger Games are a live spectacle in which combatants are pitted against each other in a fight to the death. Only this time instead of slaves and convicts, it’s children who fight in the games. Which was one thing that didn’t quite sit right with me, since I don’t know how watching 18 year olds killing a poor tiny twelve year old could possibly be entertaining. I think the book would have been served better if the age group of the teenagers were pressed more closely together, more like 14-18 which would at least give the younger tributes a better chance of survival, but that’s personal opinion. Meanwhile the outlook of the Capitol pokes at our conscious, pointing out the fact that we get our entertainment at other people’s expenses, and that perhaps we are not as helpful to our poorer districts as we would like to pretend we are. For instance, the tabloids prey on the desperate by offering them large sums of money to make up stories with celebrities, such as who fathered their child. Our current media is constantly exploiting people, The Hunger Games just runs on a society that does it on a much larger scale.
Which brings me to the final point on sexuality. While at first I thought the end of the book was suffering from a giant romantic plot tumor, I started to think about how it plays into society’s obsessions as well. We always need to know who is in a relationship with whom, and just think of the number of reality TV shows that focus on the very issue of finding a mate. I came name three that ran for several seasons, and I’m sure there were plenty more that flew under my radar. Not to mention shows like The Third Wheel and Blind Date. Even within the context of the book, the relationship starts out (at least on Katniss’ part) as a show to put on for the audience, because they know that is the type of thing that will bring sponsors to their side.
Some people complain about the style, but since it is written in first person present tense of a sixteen year old girl, I find the style is very fitting to the narrative.
Since I don’t normally read young adult after being disappointed so frequently, I will admit that while I had heard about the book before, it was not until I heard Jennifer Lawrence was cast in the movie that I decided to read it. Now I regret waiting so long, and while I am anticipating the release of the movie, in the meantime I am recommending the book to anyone who will stay still long enough to listen to me.