Saturday, March 03, 2012

Would YOU survive a future like this? 

Book Review: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

Have you read "The Hunger Games" yet? If not, there's still time before the highly anticipated movie version hits the theatres March 23rd. Some of my friends polished off the entire book in a single day. While it took me considerably longer to read it due to my cognitive dysfunction, I must say the story is compelling enough for me to understand why they did so.

"The Hunger Games" is the first volume of a trilogy. Even though it is classified as young adult fiction because the protagonist is a teenager, readers of all ages can appreciate this because it is so well written. Suzanne Collins knows how to keep a reader engaged so that you find yourself hanging on every word, excited about finding out what happens next.

The story is set in the future, in what remains of the United States. The nation is divided into 12 mostly poverty-stricken districts serving a glamorous capitol. As a display of power, every year the capitol requires two teenagers from each district to compete in a live televised fight to the death called the Hunger Games. It's like a barbaric cross between "Survivor" and the Olympics. The prize for the winner is that their entire district will be given enough food so than none will starve, at least until the next competition.

Contestants for the Hunger Games are drawn at random, one girl and one boy for each district. When 12-year-old Prim is chosen, her sister, 16-year-old Katniss, volunteers to serve in her place. They live in the very poorest district, where Katniss has been keeping her family barely fed by means of illegal hunting and trading. But now the only way she can ensure the survival of her sister and widowed mother is to outlive the other 23 contestants, some of whom have been professionally trained for the games.

Katniss is whisked away to the capitol, where she is glammed up and made enticing for the television viewers, much like one of today's reality stars. She is on camera much of the time and must perform to attract sponsors who will provide items that will increase her odds of survival during the games. She must be likable enough for the masses yet intimidating to the other teens in the competition.

The setting for the games is a mystery and changes every year. In addition, should there be a lull in the action, the capitol can choose to make things more exciting for the viewers by unleashing a natural disaster or dangerous creature into the mix. Once the games begin, Katniss must rely on instinct, her relationship with the other teens and sheer luck. Will it be enough?

"The Hunger Games" is a real nail biter, with a cliffhanger at the end of nearly every chapter. There are more twists in the story than a corkscrew. I found it utterly fascinating and admired the skill of the writing.

So if you're in the mood for a good but unusual story, see what all the fuss has been about and grab a copy of "The Hunger Games". You might find yourself zipping through it in record time.

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