Jan 4, 2012

The Weeknight Book Club: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


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I was just never going to be a Twi-hard.  Bella is just so sullen (and now Cullen).  I dutifully read the series but never seemed to be able to whip myself into a frenzy about either of Bella's warring (and equally grim) lovers, Jacob and Edward. Then there's the ongoing battle between blood and pallor against a backdrop of neverending rain.  Somehow it went on for 4 novels.  Punctuated by some romantic moments, a wedding, a birth and some inter species fighting.  Needless to say, I have never seen any of the films.

However, my time to be a teenage (at heart) fiction fan has arrived.  I've just read the entire Hunger Games trilogy over the holidays and I'm now officially a Mockingjay and Team Peeta.  I've been tweeting about the books like there's no tomorrow and fortunately, people on twitter Understand and Understand Deeply.  The first film of the series, The Hunger Games, premieres on March 23 2012 and you can be assured that I'll be there for an early screening with my hair in a Katniss Everdeen braid and a mockingjay pin over my heart.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  For those of you who haven't yet succumbed, I'd better give you a quick review.

The Hunger Games are set in the future.  A future where North America as we know it is destroyed and in its place we have Panem.  The capital of Panem is Capitol and there are 12 surviving (and poor) districts that surround it and essentially produce all the materials needed for the wealthy and privileged Capitol citizens to survive in opulence and excess.  President Snow currently presides over the nation.

So that no resident of Panem ever forgets the past, each of the districts must compete in The Hunger Games.  This involves each district sending 2 child competitors into televised game of survival.  The winner is he or she who has managed to not only survive the elements that the Game Creators inflict upon them but has also managed to kill everyone else.  The odds are stacked against those from poor districts because they can get tesserae (life sustaining extra rations) by having their name entered more than once in the televised lottery.

Katniss Everdeen ends up being a Tribute (the name contestants are given) after volunteering to go instead of her younger sister Prim who was first selected.  Her partner for the games is Peeta, a childhood friend.  Together, Peeta and Katniss represent District 12, the coal supplier of  Panem.  Through various plot twists, both Peeta and Katniss survive and are declared winners at the end of the first novel of the trilogy.  The subsequent novels take up their lives after winning the games as rebellion stirs in the hearts of the oppressed masses of Panem.

The premise of The Hunger Games sounds macabre and I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant in beginning to read the trilogy, which are aimed at a young adult market.  Collins apparently got the idea for this series when she happened to be watching a sporting challenge based reality program on the television and she took it several disturbing steps further.

I fell in love with these books for several reasons.  Katniss is a complex heroine who isn't just languishing around waiting to be rescued from her life.  She is an agent of change and uses her skills and intelligence not only for her survival but also to protect and better the lives of those around her.  Her love interests are also complex and who she finally ends up with and how was one of the many reasons I was attached to my Kindle from Christmas to New Years.

Collins deals expertly with the other sub plots of the novel.  The games threads and who finally wins are fast paced, graphic and vividly detailed.  The bigger theme of the rebellion is developed over the three novels with large doses of suspense and surprise betrayals.  The Hunger Games could have become overly dramatic and convoluted but instead the trilogy is tightly plotted and sharply written.

What more could you ask as an adult reading young adult fiction?  It surprised me how much I enjoyed this series given that I'm not a sci fi fan.  I found that all the main characters were multi diamensional and real.  The 'good guys' had flaws and the 'baddies' had moments of humanity. 

Have I piqued your interest yet?  Though I'm looking forward to the film, I do wonder just how successfully The Hunger Games will make the leap to the big screen.  There is so much material to work with, I just hope the balance is right to make the film as engaging as the novel.  Not long to go now.

17 comments:

  1. I love The Hunger Games! I started listening to the audi books when out walking and ended up walking a lot longer then I thought just so I could keep listening! 
    I can't wait for the movie to come out, though I need to find someone else who has actually read the books and shares my excitement to come see it with me!

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  2. I am so excited for the movie, I may have even watched the trailer a few times in anticipation.  It is so well written & I love myself a trilogy.

    If you loved Hunger Games I highly recommend Divergent by Veronica Roth. It is the first in another trilogy & in my opinion on par with Hunger Games.  The next one comes out this year I think.

    Gillian I would love to go see Hunger Games with another fan. I think it would make the experience that much better.

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  3. I adored these books - read them over three nights. So much better than Twilight - more in the vein of a young Buffy. I am definitely going to the opening night and braiding my hair too:)

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  4. I love you review almost as much as I love The Hunger Games. I have perfected my Katniss braid and am counting the days until March 23 x

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  5. I've heard so much about these books that I'm going to buy the trilogy as a birthday present for myself:)

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  6. Glad to hear you're finished and enjoyed them all (I was one of your tweeps chatting about it).

    I'm still finishing the 2nd and am still loving it sick. I don't know whether to break between the next and hand the kindle over to the boy so he can read or power on to the 3rd.

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  7. Awesome books read all three in three days

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  8. I'm glad you loved the Hunger Games Trilogy too, I read them on my kindle before Christmas and I've been recommending them to friends ever since. Even the film casting is superb and I can't wait till the film's release.  PS I'm Team Peeta too and I didn't manage to finish the last Twitlight book either!

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  9. I just finished reading the trilogy on Tuesday and loved every minute of it - I'm at a loss at what to read now though. Looking forward to the movie very much (though the 3rd movie is going to be the most gruesome I think). 

    PS...I am a Twi-Hard, but after the last movie I'm rethinking things as it was a total joke.

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  10. I got the Hunger Games for Christmas and I LOVED it.  I also got a stack of other books but I think they are going to wait till I get and read the other two books because I can't wait to find out what happens.

    I really love to see good writing like this for young adults.  My Mum was a school teacher and found it really hard to motivate kids to read.  For her the answer lay in "Tomorrow with the war began" and I imagine teachers all over the place will now be calling on the Hunger Games for the same reason.

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  11. So relieved that so many of you are Mockingjays too.  I fully intend to write a post around the night I go and see the first film.  We could use the post to work shop outfit options...

    SSG xxx

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  12. I agree, Lisa - these are a great series to discuss in the context of a school English programme.

    SSG xxx

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  13. Twitlight - I love it...

    SSG xxx

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  14. Thanks for the suggestions, anitabut!  I will track Divergent down.

    SSG xxx

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  15. I got a kindle for xmas and this first book I read was The Hunger Games, I was hooked and finished it in one day. Have been trying to delay reading the 2 follow-up books, but i'll probably now download it tonight . Cannot wait for the movie!

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  16. This is so funny...I started reading my 13 yr old daughters copy last week at Macmasters beach! I finished it pretty quicksmart and then passed it onto my husband. Halfway through the second one and loving it...

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  17. My daughter bought the Trilogy at Costco a couple of weeks ago and hasnt put them down yet. She has been raving about them non stop. I might give them a look now. Thanks for the review. x

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