The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 180 weeks. The movie debuts today and last week I read it. So, while this review may be old news for some, here are my thoughts about this book.
One must keep in mind that this book is intended for a juvenile audience. I read it in part because my kids were all reading it. This is both the paradox and promise of this book (which is the first in a trilogy). I say paradox because while the text looks and feels like a book for junior high schoolers, the subject matter is morbid and adult.
Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. This book can teach a budding author a lot about pacing. The story moves from chapter to chapter and is very intriguing. The main character, Katniss, is a stark heroine with little of the postmodern motif that urges all characters to be tarnished in some way. The story is rather uni-dimensional and there is little doubt that she will prevail in the end. For my tastes, this is a welcome contrast to the vampire motif in which the hero harbors evil.
The storyline is brutal. It takes the main elements of “The Island of Doctor Moreau” and sets it in a post-apocalyptic future in which the privileged few hold the rest of society in a form of slavery. Each year, the capital stages a gladiator-style, televised show in which representatives from each of the slave districts sends two young people (our heroine is one of them). I have only read the first book but I certainly hope that the other two confront the brutality of this plot line (I suspect they do) for the grotesque evil that it is. So, while you feel great empathy for Katniss, you find yourself hoping she will kill her opponents before they kill her.
I have given about as much of the plot as I should, but there is also a romantic storyline that no doubt will be more prominent in the upcoming two books. There is foreshadowing regarding a future rebellion. All this is to say that it leaves the reader wanting a bit more, which is what the first book of a trilogy should do.
Do I recommend it? Probably yes but not because it’s great literature. Rather, its value lies in what it teaches us about American pop-culture. Social Darwinism, reality television, women that can kick the teeth out of men, and the American love for rebellion are mixed into a girls’ fantasy novel. I guess that is an amazing feat for an author to pull off.