The story of The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins begins with an introduction to Katniss, her family, and her district. The story of Katniss’ life is revealed a little at a time in skillful doses, and we find we know just enough to fully understand the consequences of every situation.
The day is Reaping Day, a day that terrifies the Districts but is masked in mild celebration, where one boy and one girl between the ages 12 and 18 are randomly selected to take part in the Hunger Games each year. The Hunger Games are a barbaric gladiator-esque public masquerade which are mandatorily viewed by the entire kingdom, including the victim’s families. I use the word victim because the children are put into an arena and forced to fight to the death. The games to not end until there is only one child remaining. It is commonplace for ‘tributes’, for that is what the contestants are called, to starve, freeze, drown, or burn to death, as well as strive to kill one another, in order to survive themselves. The gamemakers are utterly in control of all aspects of the arena, using natural forces to herd the tributes wherever they want in order to put on an amusing show for the rest of the kingdom.
We are informed about the rebellion that happened about 75 years previous, which led to the founding of the games, as a punishment to the districts and a reminder of the Capitol’s power and influence over every aspect of kingdom life. I find it interesting that Collins uses the term ‘Reaping Day’, which implies a harvest, or a gathering of profits. Gathering the child sacrifices to battle on ‘live television’ to their gruesome deaths.
The set up of the country Katniss is a part of reminds me of a kingdom. The Capitol is the Castle in this scenario, housing a portion of the population who is close to the ‘king’, and take part in the castle lifestyle, which is separated from the rest of the kingdom. It follows that districts 1-12 then, house the serf population. A serf is one who rents a space from the noble, the head of the castle, to live with his family with meager means, paying whatever taxes the noble sets, which can include a portion of whatever crops the serf’s land yields, leaving the serf and his family with barely enough to survive.
Castle hierarchy directly correlates to the conditions the people of the Districts live, with ties to communism also. The men in District 12 have to work in the coal mine with no choice to do otherwise, and they do not get to keep any coal but what they happen to drag in on their boots. The people in Rue’s district, District 11, have to work in the orchards and fields, but do not get to keep any of the delicious food they harvest. They get paid a meager wage that can barely support their families, most need assistance from the government (which racks up their chances to be chosen for the games), and people regularly starve to death in the streets, though no one in a place of power will acknowledge the fact (never listing starvation as cause of death). They even have a mayor, though it does not become clear what role he or she plays in the District, it is only revealed that they are better off financially than their struggling counterparts.
This book is PACKED with social commentary and governmental features that really make you sit back and think, because, as we know, this is a work of fiction, but within these pages, this world is absolutely plausible. To me, this is the best part of science-fiction - taking you into a world that you could see developing from the structure we currently have. I could go on forever about these details, but I don't want to spoil everything.
The games Katniss and Peeta participate in stands apart from any either of them have ever seen. For one, Katniss and Peeta form a strategy of teamwork rather than competitiveness toward each other, spending as much time together during training as possible, while others have their minds set against their adversaries, knowing they’ll have to kill them, or be killed themselves.
Katniss and Peeta are both utterly terrified of the Games, Katniss worried for her family who depends so much on her, and Peeta, because he has no confidence in himself to win. After declaring his crush on Katniss, Peeta sets the standard of a Hunger Games guaranteed to entertain more than most. Torn between each other, and the impossible task they are faced with, the Hunger Games is a novel you will not soon forget, and will leave you wanting more.
It may be a young adult novel, but, like any futuristic dystopia, The Hunger Games makes us all open our eyes a little bit wider to the world around us and what we can do to help prevent a harsh and unforgiving future.
Another reason to adore the hunger games: it puts a name to a feeling we’ve all had at one point or another: Hollow Day: A day when no matter how much you eat, you still want more.
While this synopsis seems to portray a very bleak and hopeless novel, I promise you, it is full of as much love and hope and friendship as it is with sorrow and fear. We quickly fall in love with our leading lady, Katniss, and she never ceases to surprise.
Clearly well written, I waited all of three minutes before downloading the second and third installments onto my Nook after completing The Hunger Games. Already I am a hundred pages into book two: Catching Fire.
Do yourselves a favor and pick this one up. You won’t be sorry.