In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.
After reading a couple of raving five star reviews of this over the summer, I knew I wanted to check it out for myself. Once I finished some major schoolwork I decided to buy this and sit down and read it, since the final book of the trilogy comes out in August. If you haven't heard of The Hunger Games or heard it raved about but generally consider yourself up-to-date on news regarding books, then I'm sorry, but I don't know what rock you have been living under and you should really go track it down at your preferred bookstore or library. Seriously, don't even bother finishing my review, just go. I don't consider myself a huge fan of dystopian literature, but for me, this book had it all. This is one of my favorite reads of 2010 thus far.
The premise of this story is definitely disturbing, and one which had me intrigued right away. I didn't realize how sucked into the story I would get. As the the book went on it became harder and harder to tear myself away. Collins knows to write and develop plot, leaving the reader wanting more at the end of every chapter. Furthermore, her prose is tight and concise yet still descriptive, and definitely something by which I was very impressed. I'm really glad I have Catching Fire, this book's sequel, right on hand because I want to find out what happens ASAP.
I loved Collins's character development. I was intrigued and wanted to know more about each character, but was still left constantly wondering who I should and shouldn't trust. She definitely had me choking up over some characters while feeling much less sympathetic towards others. I will admit that at first I wondered how realistic Katniss really was, because she seemed so adept at hunting and defending herself in the arena. However, when I really thought about it, it made sense. What other choice has she had all her life to become a skilled hunter? I liked that Katniss was humbled and expressed some awareness of her strengths and weaknesses in comparison to the other tributes. Her emotions felt real and honest to me, especially as I can't imagine having to be in her position and make some of the choices she does. Of course, in talking about characters, I can't neglect to mention Peeta and the love triangle. The romance had me bursting out laughing at points and going "Awww!" in others. It took me until near the end of the novel to trust Peeta, and I wonder how he will transform and grow in the coming books. I also noticed that Collins characterized Gale largely through Katniss's opinions of him, and I look forward to seeing more of him. I have to say that while maybe I should be better at this by now, but I'm honestly not sure who Katniss will ultimately choose, and I look forward to finding out.
The dystopian elements of this novel absolutely blew me away. Not only did I find it very original, but I also thought it was woven excellently into the story. That may sound kind of irrelevant coming from someone who hasn't read much dystopian, but I think for me the mixture of brutality and emotion is what did it. I think Collins drew some interesting comparisons to our own society and that these are excellent concepts to have readers contemplating. The back of my book jacket mentions that this is a book which "explore[s] the effects of war and violence on those coming of age" and I think that this is a timeless concept to contemplate. I've thought about sharing a quote here, but ultimately, I want you to read it for yourself.
I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, or to have such a hard time putting it down, yet both of these things happened. If you haven't already, be sure to read it, but be sure to clear your schedule in advance. I don't think you'll be sorry.
Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.