Friday, 26 July 2013

Suzanne Collins' 'The Hunger Games'

So the next three reviews are going to follow on from each other: Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy. The reason is because (after reading the first one) they are strongly written Young Adult books that I think are important to review separately – as long as the remaining two books hold up to the first.
So, to Collins’ first of the trilogy, then?
This dystopian book is set after a rebellion from the Thirteen Districts is quashed by the Capitol and then memorialised through the form of the Hunger Games: twelve boys and twelve girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen must fight to the death with only one clear winner in order to show that they can do nothing to change the past. Or perhaps possibly their future as it is a live televised program sent to everyone: sport to those in the Capitol and a grim reminder to those in the Districts. This book hinges on the year the protagonist Katniss Everdeen takes the place of her sister, even though the entire “game” is nothing more than a death sentence to her.
I watched the first movie before reading this book and while this often puts me in a position to only see the characters through the eyes of the actors, I think (though this is a place for book reviews) that the movie remained rather true to the book and I had no problem with the actors filling in my imagination. Now back to the book …
This is a pretty heavy book for Young Adult readers in terms of content and the surreal way the colours and characters’ lives play off each other. There is a lot of tension between people and you gain a sense of truth to just how the repressed in this situation might feel. This heaviness of content and meaning is not just engaging for readers, but strengthens conceptions of reality and how to relate through the text to the modern world.
Seeing Katniss’ thought processes to not just the people she cares about but particularly to thoughts of the Districts, the Capitol and possible acts of rebellion are also interesting as it is well layered between thinking the idea too insane to consider and its fleeting responses to the Hunger Games. I also enjoy the first person narrative for this kind of book which enables readers to have to play off only what they are shown through other characters’ words and actions to how they feel or would act in particular situations. This can make it frustrating when you only see Katniss considering ideas the reader thinks are staring her right in the face, but this also enables a naivety to the character as her focus has, and seems to always be at this moment, survival for her and those she cares about.
There is a good balance between ferocity and ruthlessness with the desire for friendship and kindnesses, but the environment of “fake it so you make it” keeps everything rather grey. This aspect was most enjoyable and I hope it is kept through the remaining two in the series to be reviewed. Overall, the characters are well-rounded and the writing is solid and not flowery at all, slicing through pointlessness to get to the heart of the themes, action and character tensions. I see it as a strong, fully-formed book for any Young Adult, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the themes (though perhaps more simplified) compel older readers too.

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