Saturday, January 15, 2000

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins

YA Fiction
Post-Apocalyptic??? Dystopian??? You Decide...

I really knew nothing about this book before I read it. I didn't buy the actual book, but instead downloaded it to listen to for my book group. Thus, I've seen no photos of the cover, read no book-flap summaries, trade reviews, nor print media recommendations. I'm reviewing it completely on my own experience with it. Well, with one caveat. In our book group, everyone chimes in as to whether or not they've read the book, whether or not they will be participating in the discussion and maybe what they thought. With very few exceptions, the other members loved it, called it a page-turner, a great book, etc. So I started listening with that bit of public opinion ringing in my ears. Beyond that, really, I knew very little.

I have to admit that for the first half and more of the book, based on what my Nook pals were saying, I wondered if I had downloaded the wrong book. I actually double-checked. It wasn't going quickly for me, it was kind of annoying and I wasn't finding myself engaged at all. Gradually however, by the last 3 hours of listening, I couldn't put it down, so to speak, and began to care what the outcome was. Your mileage may vary, of course, and it could be that it just didn't really lend itself to being listened to instead of read, although I really liked the reader. Her name is Carolyn McCormick. She played the female psychaitrist on Law and Order, and I like her acting. So, I don't know what it was-it just didn't click for a long time.

So, to the actual story. It is a terrible story, really, but sometimes those are the ones that are important to tell because they allow one to think about difficult and terrible things without having to actually experience them. Therein lies the value of this book in my opinion. Understand that it's not a terrible book, it is a good book, and the author is a skilled storyteller. Its just a really difficult world to live in, even for a little while. I can't really say that I enjoyed it the way my friends did or that it was transporting for me, but I believe it has value and I'll encourage my kids to read it because they've read other things by this author and liked them. It asks questions about class, politics, relationships, ethics, morals, and many other important things through the story of a flawed society that pits its youth, gladiator-style, against one another in the most brutal of ways. Because of the gladiators of old and the Reality T.V. of today (and even the way we cheer on the violence in movies and video games), it is sobering to consider that humans are capable of treating each other in this way, but this story has its heroes as well, with their necessary bits of hope to keep one from despairing altogether about mankind and our future.

I for one am not inclined to such despair, so I tend to notice the beauty among the ashes in stories like these, and they really and truly don't depress me. Evil is all around in the world right now, but so is good. This book had some really powerful moments of good that nicely balanced out the difficult parts without making the story sappy or melodramatic. I can live in fear or I can remember that I still have control over my actions and responses, even if I have none over others. That is a central theme of this book. Are you trapped because the Capital says you are or are you free because you are a human being?

Good stuff for anyone to think about.

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