Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Hunger Games

by Brittany Geragotelis

Phew! I'm happy to report that my fave model wasn't kicked off of "America's Next Top Model" last night. Jessica is safe and sound and still in the house. Although, I'm officially confused as to why they ran the promo's they did—half the scenes they showed never ended up on the episode! Those sneaky editing folks!

photo credit: Scholastic
Now, let's get down to book talk! Per the suggestion of an agent friend, I picked up The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I was told it was edgy and a total must-read. After a little research (mainly through google and word of mouth), I realized that this series has been a runaway hit. It seems that people are developing as big an obsession over Suzanne's books as they have over Twilight (some have even gone as far as being "Team Peeta" or "Team Gale"). So, by the time I got my review copies from the publisher, I have to admit my expectations were already unrealistically over-the-top.

So, what did I think? Well, in a way, I'm still undecided.

Maybe that's not exactly accurate. I think I both liked the book and was simultaneously horrified by it. Let me explain. The book's described as being sci-fi, but I never really got that vibe. And although it's supposed to take place in the future, it seemed a bit old-worldly to me...not at all current. So for me, that was a bit discombobulating.

The storyline itself was what I'd describe as "Survivor" meets Lord of the Flies meets The Lottery. Katniss is a huntress who lives in "District 12" with her family and best friend, Gale. Her hometown is confined within an electrified fence, and the people of District 12 are being forced to live a life of near-poverty. The capitol controls all the districts, keeping its people in quiet servitude. Every year, the capitol throws something called "The Hunger Games" as a reminder of what happens when people try to revolt (Hint: there used to be a District 13). So, each year every child in every district has their names entered into a sort of lottery and one boy and one girl from each is chosen to participate in the games.

Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, it turns out that the kids who are chosen (24 in all) are forced into an arena where they must fight each other for their lives. The last child alive is the victor. When her younger sister is called to participate, Katniss offers to take her place. And after that, it's pretty much hide and seek (and slaughter).

Although the book was incredibly creative, my mind kept going back to the fact that I was reading a book where children were being forced to murder each other. With the exception of a few of the character's deaths, I felt like the violence was pretty anti-clamatic...almost made to be an afterthought, which I found especially disturbing. And like I said, the way the characters talked didn't seem very believable if the story was supposed to take place in the future. It might have worked better had it been 200 years in the past or possibly on another planet maybe...

photo credit: Scholastic
It took me over 100 pages to really get into the book, but when I did, I have to admit that when I wasn't reading it, I was left thinking about what was going to happen next. The writing was very strong and Suzanne clearly knows how to tell a story. Though I didn't 100% fall in love with Katniss, there were other characters I connected strongly with (Little Rue!!!). The world that was created for the reader was both imaginative and filled with hope and horror.

So, this is where I'm left: It was hard for me to get past the shock of the games themselves, but the rest of the story was spellbinding.

The series is a three-parter; the second book, Catching Fire is out now and the third (and final) book, Mockingjay, will be published August 24th. If you haven't already done so, pick up a copy and give it a read. I'd be interested in hearing what you all think.