I came to this book pretty late in the game (Ha Ha). I was reluctant to read it – perhaps because I was really unaware of it until Mockingjay, or more than likely because I was reading so many required books that I forgot to read for fun. With the movie coming out in the next few months, I knew I had to read it. I hate seeing films based on books when I have not read the book first.
My lovely fiance gave me a Kindle for my birthday, and while looking for books to add, I came across The Hunger Games. I added it, but did not read it until I had finished my Harry Potter marathon.
I wish I had read this book sooner. I think I started a bit of it on a Saturday afternoon, wiling away some of the time at work. And then I was hooked all day Sunday, finishing the book before I could sleep that night. I immediately downloaded Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and finished reading the trilogy within a matter of days.
The basic plot of the first novel is that in an unspecified dystopian future, the government forces children ages 12-18 to compete in a televised contest to the death. Only one can survive. The children are chosen from the 12 districts, one boy and one girl, by a random lottery. Katniss’s younger sister Prim is chosen, so Katniss volunteers to take her place. Going to the arena with her is a young man named Peeta, someone who helped Katniss avoid starvation when she was younger. His act of kindness causes Katniss to distrust him, but mostly to resent him and the fact that she feels in his debt.
It’s hard for me to describe just why this book resonates so much. I guess in part, the injustices that Katniss fights are huge and ones that we cannot imagine. Katniss is not an entirely likable character, but her will to live is so strong that you cannot help but appreciate her. Her love of her sister and her desire to keep Prim away from any possible pain really becomes the focal point of Katniss.
You could easily say that the trilogy focuses on political rebellion, on whether war is right, and just how much we will sacrifice. While these themes mean a lot in today’s world, it isn’t these overarching ideas that draw you in. It’s the characters. Even though the books have the requisite love-triangle (Peeta-Katniss-Gale [Katniss’s best friend from home]), it hardly ever feels contrived. Perhaps it is because Katniss really wants neither of them. Her protective nature goes so deep that she does not want children because she could not bear to watch them be chosen for the Games. You find throughout the books just how caring this young girl is, and it is that love that brings you to her side and makes you root for her goals.
I tend to like character-driven novels the best. While a good story is fun, how much would you care about Katniss facing her death if you knew nothing about her staunch desire to save her sister? Would you have cried when Harry Potter discovered [SPOILER ALERT] he must die to save his friends if you did not know him? I read a lot of young adult fiction, and we seem to have lost ourselves to the showy Transformers-plots – a lot of explosions and pretty cars, but no character substance. I suppose that is true of all genres and age-ranges, but I absolutely love when I find something like The Hunger Games that I am still contemplating weeks later.
Books like these are the reason that I read. To get lost in a world, to know the characters so well that they feel like friends.