by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Katniss Everdeen has had to be a survivor, living as she does in the gritty District 12 of Panem, a country that rose out of what used to be North America. She spends her days hunting with her friend, making sure that she and her family have enough food to make it through another day. She's not too concerned about The Hunger Games, an annual event where 24 randomly selected teenagers are sent to an arena to fight to the death, and where the victor can bring prosperity and security to his or her family. That is, she isn't that concerned... until her younger sister's name is drawn.
Katniss makes the decision to volunteer for the Games in her sister's place, even knowing it means almost certain death. The Games are brutal, but if she can win, her family's lives will change forever. There's just one thing she didn't count on... and it may be her ultimate downfall.
I put off reading this book for a long time, for a couple of reasons. The first was that I'd heard it wasn't that original (borrowing heavily from Battle Royale... which I've never read, by the way, so I don't know why I had such a problem with that). The second was that it was written with the first-person, present-tense point of view -- my least favourite point of view (well, after second-person... but, honestly, how many books are written with that?). But I kept hearing so much about The Hunger Games (and the sequels) that I couldn't put off diving into the trilogy any longer.
I will say that, at first, I wasn't that into it. I kept wondering why everything was happening. I just found it a little difficult to believe that people who had everything (i.e., those in the Capitol) would feel the need to do what they did against people who posed little threat (i.e., those in the Districts). After a few dozen pages of mentally snarking, "This is so stupid!" I finally just gave up and went with it. And when you suspend disbelief, you actually get quite a riveting story.
I was really impressed with the pace. I was a little worried in spots, thinking that we'd get bogged down in details about preparations, when what I really wanted to know about were the Games themselves. Luckily, though, the story just flies along. I was never bored. (I actually read about the last 3/4 of the book in one sitting!) I got used to the present-tense point of view after a while and, though I still don't like it, I understand why the author might have chosen it (along with choosing to throw in a lot of sentence fragments and grammar weirdness; after all, Katniss is a hunter... not a scholar).
By the time I was nearing the last few pages, I was getting a little antsy... and now I need to read the sequels! Darn it. But after all is said and done, I will admit, The Hunger Games is a pretty good adventure. I can't wait to find out what happens next!
Overall: 4 out of 5