The Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins

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For those who haven’t yet read the book, the movie version is due to hit theaters March 23.

Katniss Everdeen lives in a poor district known mainly for their coal mining.  She supports her mother and little sister by sneaking outside the boundary fence to hunt.  She is a fighter born of her circumstances.  She lives in the Twelfth District of Panem a post-apocalyptic version of the United States.  A strong character from the beginning she risks her own life by placing her name in the lottery extra times to earn more food.  The first year her sister is placed in the lottery her name is drawn, in order to protect her Katniss takes her place.  She becomes the girl tribute for her district in the Hunger Games.  A televised competition held each year for the entertainment of the Captiol City.  There is only one rule: There can only be winner.  How will she fare in this deadly game?  If she wins the rewards are greater than she could hope for.

SPOILER WARNING FROM THIS POINT ON

Katniss is from the start an easily likeable character.  Her circumstances are difficult and she does what she must breaking the laws to provide for her family.  Her friend Gale helps her out as they hunt together looking out for each other.  She has a unique connection to the baker’s boy (her fellow tribute from District 12), Peeta who once helped her.  She ends up allied with him during the Hunger Games.  They are an unlikely duo since he admits to being love with her.  However, Katniss only wants to survive to save her family.  In the end, she doesn’t have to kill him, they are both allowed to survive as the winners.  Katniss is an able hunter which allows her to kill those that threaten her chances, but she maintains the compassion she reserves for her friends and family aiding those that ally with her.  Possibly the most touching scene is her kindness to Rue after she is killed, she refuses to let her body be taken until she performs her own funerary rites.  Katniss is easy to understand but sometimes hard to accept her reasons.  She allies with Peeta but only to win and so uses him which leads to conflict in their relationship.  Peeta is truly an open book and would even have died to save Katniss so her betrayal ruins what could have been a lasting relationship.

I think that this is the best book of the trilogy.  The plot doesn’t drag and the fight scenes are not traditional.  There are some brutally violent characters but our main character relies more on strategy than outright force to eliminate her rivals.  She remains grounded not wanting to kill anyone except to protect her own life, there are some that seem to relish killing the other tributes.  The book explores the differences of class structures and a government abusing its power.  Katniss is a realistic character that I believe would represent most people if they had to face the same situations.  Her concern is her family’s safety and then she helps others.  It would have been interesting to see her as a physically weaker character, but since she is a skilled hunter we have a fairly accurate idea of the final outcomes.  Peeta is that weak character but his weakness makes it hard to relate to him, he doesn’t have a particularly active role in the book.  We don’t get to hear his thoughts on the events taking place, but I think he is the best character truly fitting the role of noble hero/idiot.  He risks his life for Katniss and can’t stop himself from loving her making the other books less satisfying when we lose more of his presence.  Overall, this is a delightful dystopian world where we feel fulfilled seeing our heroes rise above their tormentors.  A conventional underdog story with less conventional scenarios leading to an enjoyable read.

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