Have you ever looked at The Hunger Games and thought, “Why would I read a book about kids killing each other?” That was my first reaction when picking the book, but it also intrigued me; I wanted to know why the kids were killing each other. Why a future would pit 12–18 year olds against one another in a “game” to the death. I was glad it did make me intrigued as the novel and the trilogy is really hard to put down. I read the first two books back-to-back in two nights. I am a fast reader, but the story makes you want to keep reading.
The story is set in a future dystopian place called Panem, which is North America (essentially the United States but also a little of Canada). Panem is comprised of the Capitol, where the games are fought, and the other 13 districts that surround it. The closer to the Capitol, the more money the districts have. Each district is in charge of a particular resource. District 1 is luxury items, District 2 is masonry and defense, District 3 is general electronics, District 4 is fishing, District 5 is power/electricity, District 6 is transportation, District 7 is lumber, District 8 is textiles, District 9 is grain, District 10 is livestock, District 11 is agriculture, and District 12 is coal mining. There was a 13th District that was in charge of nuclear weaponry, but prior to the start of the book, it was obliterated.
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year-old girl from the 12th District. She lives with her mother, and younger sister, Primrose, who is 12 and is up for the reaping for the first time. The reaping is where a boy and girl from each District will be picked for the Hunger Games. Katniss was taught about hunting and survival skills from her father, who passed away in a mining accident years prior to the book. She and her best friend Gale, go out hunting every day in order to trade their spoils for other necessities at their Districts “market.” The morning of the reaping she goes about her day as she normally would. Along with Prim and her mother, Katniss heads to the square for the reaping. This would be Katniss’ fourth time, and Prim’s first time. By a shocking turn of events Primrose is selected to be the Tribute. Katniss volunteers in exchange for her sister, which has only happened one other time in District Twelve. The male tribute is selected and it is, Peeta Mellark, a school mate of Katniss’. Peeta’s family owns the bakery in the District. His and Katniss’ only interaction before the book is he gave her bread that he burned on purpose. The 12th District is not known for being very wealthy; many of the families of District Twelve will eventually starve, especially those in the Seam, which is where Katniss lives.
The two tributes, after getting the chance to say goodbye to their family and friends, are pushed onto a train that will take them to the Capitol. They are advised by the only living victor from District 12 in the 73 years prior of the games, Haymitch Abernathy, who is always drunk. They are chaperoned by Effie Trinket, a native of the Capitol and a very outspoken woman who Katniss finds annoying, the final Capitol citizens who round out the crew is Katniss’ stylist Cinna and Peeta’s stylist Portia. Katniss and Peeta take all the attention in their opening ceremony outfits that were designed by Cinna. They are head to toe black and when a button is pressed, they will be ignited in a safe synthetic flame. In the interviews the night before the games, the main commentator of the game Caesar Flickerman coins Katniss as “The Girl on Fire” and Katniss shows up in a dress that gives the image of her on fire. The reason for the interviews is so to gain as much popularity as you can, to get “sponsor gifts” in the games. Most the gifts are super expensive and can be the difference between life and death for most tributes.
During the interviews, Peeta confesses that he has a crush on Katniss, which makes the crowd go wild. This works well for them and the tributes from 12 gains a massive amount of attention. The capitol falls for the “Star-crossed Lovers” from District 12. The games begin, and that’s where I will cut off the summary as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. (That’s just the first part of the book. The book is divided into three parts.)
The reason I found this book to be great is how it can grab your attention and keep it until the last page. When I picked it up, I could not put it down until I finished it. It’s on every Top 100 YA novels of all time lists that I have looked at, and I totally agree. It is still one of my favorite novels to this day. The whole series is in fact.
Katniss is an interesting, yet hard character to like at first. She doesn’t show much emotion, and can get irritated really easily. It isn’t until she volunteers for her sister that you really see a human side to her, and that emotion carries through the rest of the book. Peeta is the opposite of Katniss, he’s outgoing, open, and tries to make the best of every situation, he is described as being very nice. It’s Katniss and Peeta’s interactions with each other throughout the games that help you forget you’re reading a book about kids killing kids.
There, of course, was a movie franchise around the three books as well, and I thought the movies were done pretty well. They stick fairly close to the source material, especially when the third book, Mockingjay, was split into two parts. I understand why they did it this way as there is a good amount of information, action, and story that happens in the final book that can’t really be portrayed as well with just one movie. They cast the movie pretty well; Jennifer Lawrence does a good job portraying Katniss, Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark and he does a great job. Peeta is one of my favorite characters in the books and in the movies. So, I might be a little biased there.
There is a fourth book that came out last year, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I did start the book when it came out earlier this year, but I haven’t been able to finish it. It’s a prequel and I am not a fan of the main character Coriolanus Snow, the President of Panem (in the original trilogy), before he was President Snow. The book centers on the 10th Hunger Games and an eighteen-year-old Snow’s first time as a mentor in the games. He is tasked to take on a young Lucy Gray from District 12, that’s right another story about a girl from District 12 who has to compete in the games. Only this time we get the view of someone in the Capitol and how it is to be a mentor in the games.
I always recommend The Hunger Games to anyone who is interested in a Young Adult novel but hasn’t really gotten into the genre yet, or to reluctant readers as the book has everything that makes a good adventure to go on, action, romance, and a plot that anyone can follow and read quickly. If you’re interested, we do have the series here at the library! (We have all four books, and have the movies as well.)