Friday, July 31, 2009

Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games

I read about this book in the paper ages ago - oh I know, it was before Christmas, because I remember saying to my sister-in-law that I thought my eldest would like it. She didn't get it, however, and I forgot about it, until a few weeks ago in the library when I happened to see it. Immediately I remembered the favourable review and how it had seemed like My Thing, so I borrowed it and got stuck in a few days later.... and couldn't put it down. This is a real page-turner, I was delighted. It is a book written for "young people", so it runs a risk of being too simple, too explicit and explanatory, but Suzanne Collins walks on the right side of the line and I love her for it. For me as an adult reader the book would have been just that little bit better if things weren't spelled out quite as much, but in all fairness it really isn't overdone and I totally accept it.

Sometime in an undetermined future the United States is no more (neither, I take it, is most of its current coastline). Instead we have a tyrannical state called Panem, consisting of a centre, the Capitol, and twelve tributary districts, who were subdued after an uprising a century or so ago. Almost everything the districts produce goes to the Capitol. And every year the cruellest sacrifice is claimed - a boy and a girl from each district has to go to the Capitol and fight each other to the death in a kind of reality show, set in a climate-controlled wilderness with added dangers. One of the poorest districts is the twelfth one, in what is now Appalachia. Its children hardly ever win the Hunger Games. Katniss, our heroine, volunteers to fight, and is joined by Peeta, whose feelings she is unsure of. During the Games, Katniss rebellious spirit is kindled, and she starts to wonder if there is anything she can do to change the outcome.

I read somewhere that one of the great things about the book is how it caters for both sexes, as it has descriptions of stylists and outfits aswell as fights and deaths. It may be so, and if so it's even more to Collins's credit that she can write about a girl and still find her male readers. I loved this, and am already looking forward to the second book. Oh, and another great thing? The way the book ended, it wasn't completely obvious that there would be a second one. Subtlety. I like it.

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