Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review Wednesday - The Hunger Games

Let the Hunger Games begin! And may the odds be ever in your favour!

In the ruins of what was once North America, lies the nation of Panem. Composed of 12 districts and ruled by the Capitol, the population is held under strict control. One of those means of control is the Hunger Games, a yearly competition during which each district sends two teenage tribute to fight to the death for the viewing pleasure of the people.  Katniss, a girl from District 12,  volunteers as tribute when her little sister is picked to take part in the bloodbath.  At that very moment, the battle begins.

I decided to read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games because I was curious to see what the fuss was all about.  To make it to the big screen, this book must have had something special.  As a budding author, I was also curious to find the "secret recipe."  Plus, the number of meme I didn't quite get on the net was starting to annoy me.

The book is sold under teen novel and the simplicity of the writing makes it perfect for the target audience.   The prose is clean; the author shows rather than tells and thus, adjectives and adverbs are scant.  Apparently, this is what editors want now but regardless, the author makes it work. It was very easy to see the characters and their actions. Human emotions are well portrayed, realistic and don't feel overdone.  My favourite part of the book was when the tribute were sent to the Capitol.  The clash between District 12's poverty and the Capitol's wealth were vividly described and the different steps of preparation for the games were unexpected and ingenious.  All in all, the book has an excellent pacing; I never felt bored.

Katniss is a believable teenage character and is likable.  I particularly enjoyed the candid relationship she had with her sister but also the more complex one with her mother.  Also, her conflicting emotions towards Gale, a friend from District 12, which are redefined while spending time away from home, are realistic in the sense that they match her personality and the context of the story.  She's far from a giggling love smitten teenager and her reflection matches the maturity of a girl who has had to make a living for he family for many years.   Peeta, the other tribute from District 12, is an interesting character and his abilities in the arena are most surprising when one considers his background as a baker's son; the author makes an etremely original use of cake icing techniques. I wasn't, however, a fan of Peeta; I think this really has more to do with my own preferences than anything else.

The very ending of the book is of course an opening for the following book and I will read the next volume for sure because I want to see how the author will manage to prevent it from becoming a teen romance novel.

On the subject of the ending (spoilers),  some have criticized it because of the characters choosing love over life, making it worth the ultimate sacrifice.  Personally, I didn't see it this way.  Maybe Peeta is blinded by love and decided that Katniss should win because of her family's situation; they would have had much more to lose from her death than his own family.  Then again, the book is written from Katniss' perspective so we can't tell for sure what he thinks.  But for Katniss, I think it's clearly the fear of having to live with someone's blood on her hands that prevents her from killing Peeta.  On first impulse, she grabbed her bow and I think she might have killed him but seeing him unarmed, she had time to think.  Yes, she did kill other kids, but they weren't from her district.  Had Peeta been killed by someone else, it would have been easier for her.  Going back to District 12 after having killed Peeta, who publicly displayed affection for her, might have destroyed her life on many different social and psychological levels.  So long story short, I think her choice was motivated by reasons clearly other than love and that it was the cleverest and even most selfish decision she could have made. Of course, as they ended up not dying, the whole problem eventually solved itself.

ATUA's verdict: Your offering pleases us.


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