"Why don't they just kill him?" I asked Peeta.
"You know why," he says, and pulls me closer to him.
And I do. No viewer could turn away from the show now. From the Gamemakers' point of view, this is the final word in entertainment.
Katnis lives in District 12 (The Seam) of a place called Panem, what's left of North America, with her little sister Prim (12 years old) and her distraught mother. Because of her mother's deep depression brought on by the death of her father in a coal mine explosion, Katnis is responsible for their survival. With her friend Gale she must hunt, forage, trade, and use her wits so that they don't starve to death. At the annual Reaping ceremony mandated by The Treaty of Treason where one boy and one girl are chosen from each district to compete in The Hunger Games, the unthinkable happens and all of Katnis' survival skills are put to the ultimate test. Only one of the 24 chosen will survive the games.
My Initial Response:
I read this story in only a few hours. It's that catchy...I've been wanting to read more YA books...I taught a YA Lit. class several years ago at the university where I finished my Ph.D. I was an avid reader of YA when I was a YA :) and then caught back up the semesters I taught the YA class.
The Hunger Games reminded me very much of The Giver by Lois Lowery. The storyline is complicated and things don't happen just the way you expect them to, but the storyline is completely believable, which is actually kinda scary. The way the author sets up the emergence of Pandem, the rebellion of the districts, the punishment of the districts and the yearly reminder that Big Brother is in charge all make perfect sense. As much as I dislike politics, this story reinforces the necessity of being an involved and informed citizen.
What I Liked:
- Katnis - what a protagonist...once she realizes that she cannot depend on her mother to take care of her and Prim, she doesn't sit around whining about it (I'm not big on whiney characters). She uses her strengths, the skills she's been taught all her life and refines those strengths into the survival skills necessary to keep her family fed. Katnis is not perfect and she knows it; she doesn't trust many but finds ways to capitalize on opportunities where her strengths are complimented and/or gaps are filled...again her only agenda being to keep her family alive.
- The mockingjays and especially their connection with the character Dru...obviously since the last book in this trilogy is called Mockingjay, I know that these little birds will play an even more significant role for Katnis...I'm assuming the mockingjay pin that Madge gives Katnis before she has to leave for the games also foreshadows some hidden secrets pertaining to the mockingjays. Just guesses but there were more than enough symbolic teasers to make me want to read the next installment.
- Cinna, Haysmitch and even Effie and other substantial characters who worked behind the scenes and within the system to buck The Capitol's horrific treatment of the people within the Districts and particularly their children who are chosen to compete within The Hunger Games. They realize that to openly revolt will simply result in a quick painful death for everyone...so they use their wits to help each other and especially the children they are responsible for to hopefully keep them alive and maybe even stronger for surviving their experiences. There were some parts of The Hunger Games that also reminded me of Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery because of these characters and their refusal to conform to the barbaric traditions of The Capitol.
What I Didn't Like:
- The werewolf type animals that show up close to the end are almost a little over the top...the final death is the worst...and while I can see the death itself and even the way death finally comes to this character, I though it was far fetched as to WHO the death finally came from (very difficult to discuss this without spoilers)...and I don't mean the person who put this character out of his/her misery.
- Peeta, the baker's son - I feel so bad for disliking him...and I don't know if I dislike him...he's just soft...I liked him a lot when he figured out a way to hide himself after being injured...taking advantage of his strengths no matter how silly they seem and using them to survive. I think all his lovey dovey stuff bothered me the most. He almost allowed his feelings to get in the way of not only his survival, but Katnis's as well...no matter how dangerous, she had to go get the final backpack...he caused her extra danger just by being silly.
- Once Katnis leaves for the games we have no more knowledge of what is going on at home. I thought this was strange since the author sets up life in District 12 so specifically in the beginning. I would have liked to have had a glimpse at least to see whether or not Katnis' mother was living up to Katnis' challenge, what Gale was thinking as he watched the games broadcast on widescreen, how Prim responded to her sister's absence etc. I do realize that some of this info may have been left out because of things I don't know that are yet to come.
Even if you think you're not "into" YA I would encourage you to give this one a try...these characters, even though they're YA characters, have had to grow up fast due to their circumstances. The challenges they face are very complicated adult challenges and there is not much here that is high schoolish or issues that as "grown-ups" we don't understand. Politics is also something that you can't miss in this novel...as a dystopian novel, this may be one of the most believable ones I've ever read.