I wanted to do Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut but I didn’t get finished in time. Plus it was more appropriate to give you guys this review as the movie is coming out this month.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is another YA book and another first in a trilogy*. It is the story of a country called Panem. You gather early on that Panem is a located in geographical North America and is a dystopian, futuristic version of the United States. Panem was originally sectioned into 13 districts with a capitol in charge of each district. The back story is that long ago the thirteenth district began a rebellion against the capitol and eventually was completely obliterated. There are twelve districts now. As a way for the capitol to remind each district about the price of rebellion, every year The Hunger Games are held. This is where it gets interesting.
The Hunger Games are so named because they are a greater presence in your life if you are hungry. When each child in each district turns twelve they must put their name in the reaping once. When they turn thirteen twice, fourteen three times, and so on until they turn eighteen where they become exempt from the games. However, many children in the districts are facing starvation and the Capitol has offered them and their families a way to survive. Each child eligible for the games may take tessera as many times as there are people in their family. If there are three total family members they may take tessera up to three times. Tessera is essentially putting your name in the reaping for a years supply of basic staples for one person, a very meager years supply. The catch is that if you take tessera one year you name goes into the reaping not only that year for that tessera but every year after that you are age eligible compounding each tessera, every year. If you are a poor family, by the time you reach seventeen your name maybe in the reaping a hundred times or more. Hungry people have greater odds of being chosen for the games.
The games themselves start at the reaping. Every person in every district is required to watch the lottery style drawing where two children, a boy and a girl, are chosen from each district to participate in the games. The children are then allowed to say goodbye to their family and friends before embarking on a trip to the capitol where they will be well fed and clothed for the first time in their lives. They will also be trained, trained by past game winners from their respective district. They will be trained how to survive the games as each one of these children will be fighting to the death in a sadistic game designed by the Capitol to suppress rebellion before it begins.
Normally I wouldn’t give that much of a plot away in a book but in reality that is just the beginning of this dark story. Collins does a awesome job developing strong and layered characters in this tale with the first book. The writing style is aptly cynical and dark given the dystopian environment Collins creates. Anyone with the slightest penchant for rebellion tales, futuristic tales, or even strong action tales should love this book. It came on to the YA scene as an instant hit with people lining up waiting on the second and third books to be released. It is no surprise either. Fans can only hope that the movie is half as good as the book, which is why I recommend that you read the book before watching the movie.
*I have no plans ever to review any subsequent books in a finite series. I wouldn’t be able to do so without some degree of spoilers.