Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: 2008 (US)
Age Rating: 11+
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
May the odds be ever in your favour…
This story is like nothing I have ever read before. Curious and without any clue about what genre of this book would be, perhaps I was a little worried about what I might read, having been influenced by previous readers who have mentioned: “fighting to the death”… and gory content, etc. But the fabulous plot, and the wonderful characters more than make up for the occasional scenes of violence! The story is narrated by Katniss Everdeen, who throughout the text, creates a colourful and vivid image of the occurrences, and supplies the reader with plenty of interesting description. She lives in District 12, with her widowed mother, and younger sister Prim. Their home is the last in a series of districts from one to twelve, each number appearing to rank the wealth of it’s occupants, 12 being the poorest. Therefore, Katniss is entailed to go out hunting each day, for food for her family, sometimes alongside her friend Gale.
We are introduced to Katniss and Gale on the morning of the ‘Reaping Day’ which is described to be the day, two children: a boy and a girl, from each of the Districts, is chosen, and entered into an annual event called the Hunger Games. The children have to be between twelve and eighteen to compete, the shortlisted entrants later placed in an arena and forced to fight to the death, until only one remain, and is crowned the winner. For most, the possibility of competing is feared, greatly, but some: namely occupants of District 1, the Hunger Games is to be desired, and a great honour.
During the Reaping, the reality of her sister’s name being picked out of the raffle: therefore, entered in the 74th Hunger Games, hits Katniss hard, and she volunteers in Prim’s place. This scene is very realistic and the film made of this book, captures it perfectly, in my opinion. The desperation that Katniss feels, is obvious, and the relief, when she is accepted in her sister’s place, is touching.
A boy called Peeta, who Katniss happens to have had a previous connection with, is recruited in the boy’s category. Her threw her two loaves of bread, (he was the son of a Baker) when she was struggling for food, one day. The following chapters describes the days leading up to the Hunger Games, which we see Katniss and Peeta live in luxury, but hours of hard work and training. It is strange, I think, how the era seems to completely change. Previously in the story, we have seen references to mining, and hunting. And now we become familiar with trains that go 200mph, and space ships that fly overhead. This gives me the impression that the book is set in the future.
A selection of new characters are introduced – District 12’s previous Hunger Games victor – Haymitch, who is introduced to the children to advise them and offer them various techniques to remember in the arena. He is and interesting character – first of all he appears constantly drunk, but when sober, he guides Katniss and Peeta, helpfully over several issues, etc, and makes himself useful.
When the contestants eventually meet in the arena, prepared for battle, it dawns on me what a brutal and sick thing – the Hunger Games is. It is televised, and within the first five minutes of appearing live on TV, in an opening battle over an appealing stash of weapons, I think six people are killed. The Game is on – will Katniss be able to face murder for her own survival?
The arena is a massive woodland, which I realized whilst reading – Katniss would constantly have to be on her guard. There could be competetors behind any tree – hidden in any form of greenery… But Katniss tackles things, well. We already know that she is good at hunting, having had to hunt and kill for her family’s meals, every day – but as she so truthfully says to Gale, approaching their farewell – “People are different.”