Hunger Games, the New York Times bestseller by Suzanne Collins, is a dystopia like none I’ve ever read. Stephen King called it “A violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense,” – and who am I to disagree with the modern master of horror?
When I first bought Hunger Games, I knew the premise – 24 kids, called tributes, thrown into an arena with one goal: kill each other. I’d heard the sense of awe and love as my students gushed about the book, but I didn’t foresee my own love of it surpassing theirs.
Part 1, titled “The Tributes,” introduces us to Katniss – our sixteen-year-old narrator who spends her days in constant toil against the world she lives in. Her younger sister and widowed mother are incapable of providing food for themselves and rely entirely on Katniss to survive. It is the steadfast,habitual, sacrificial love she’s developed in providing for her family that drives Katniss to volunteer in her sister’s place as the district 12 tribute in this year’s Hunger Games.
In larger-scale, the tone and premise of Hunger Games reminded me of the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” – ever-popular in high school English class curricula. Couple that with the film Gladiator and you’ll have a decent understanding of what you’re in for. Expect disturbing violence and drawn-out suspense. However heart-warming friendship, valor, and romance aren’t completely absent. I shed more than a few tears as characters I loved were murdered, justice breached, and bitter-sweet triumph attained.
Yet, it true dystopian style, the book ends with an eerie sense that whatever small triumphs have occurred, powers like that of the Capitol are not brought down overnight. Surviving the Hunger Games – yep, I just gave away the ending, but since the book is told in 1st-person present tense and this is just the first installment of a trilogy… well, you shouldn’ve guessed that Katniss survives. Surviving the Hunger Games was but a pinch rather than a punch to the gut of injustice. And the hidden activities of the Capitol are more threatening than televised violence ever could be.