Monday, June 7, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Trey and I downloaded this as an audio book for a recent road trip. Although I'm always partial to reading the book rather than listening to it, the narrator for this particular audio book was excellent and I'd actually recommend it. She drifts between character's voices and the narration smoothly with several distinct voices that add a nice bit of color to the narration.

The first book in a trilogy, The Hunger Games opens us up to a to a future dystopia where North America ceases to be broken into states and countries. There's just one, Panem, consisting of a capitol and 12 districts. Seventy years ago in Panem's history, the districts rebelled against the capitol and are now punished yearly through the Hunger Games, a competition that pits children between 12-18 years of age - a boy and a girl from each district - against each other to the death. Reminiscent of the movie, Running Man, the children are given weapons, trained, coached, and helped along the way by sponsors as they struggle to survive in the Hunger Games arena.

The story is told through the eyes of Katniss Everdeen the female "tribute" sent from District 12 to compete in lieu if her younger sister who was initially chosen in the lottery. Katniss comes from a poor family, but is a skilled hunter. Peeta is the boy chosen from District 12. A baker's son, Peeta enters the games with fewer physical survival skills than Katniss. Both children play the game intelligently - giving them a fighting chance at survival.

Living in poverty, winning the games is the only hope these children have to improve and protect their lives. This dire predicament transforms all types of children into killers, some Tributes have trained their whole lives to survive the games, while others are practically helpless. Everyone has their own set of skills and their own array of advantages and disadvantages. You have no idea who's going to win.

Forced to watch the games live, the people of Panem place bets on who will win and attempt to scrape together money to sponsor a child, sending in a much-needed gift for a participant of their choice. This gives a distinct advantage to the popular players since these gifts could mean the difference between life and death for that child.

The Hunger Games is a young-adult novel with definite appeal to for an older crowd. The story is engaging, full of graphic description, social commentary on the cruelty of a corrupt political regime, and intelligent, driven characters that you begin to root for to win. While there are elements of science fiction to the novel, it's completely accessible for anyone and a very exciting read. Trey and I are looking forward to the next two books in the trilogy.

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