September 9, 2010

The Hunger Games

Posted in reading at 2:52 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

If you have not yet read this series, I advise you to rush out and buy it at your favorite bookstore or go to your local library and get on the waiting list. (They most probably will not be on the shelves.)

Normally I wait to post my favorite reads of the year until the end of the year, but I’m obsessed with this story. I don’t want to leave the characters or the world (even though it was a pretty awful world), and I thought I better post about it and get it out of my system, so I can return to the characters and world I’m supposed to be writing about!

When my older son first told me about The Hunger Games(first book in the series), I asked him what it was about. He told me, and I immediately decided I didn’t want to read it. That night, a friend of mine told me she had just read The Hunger Games, and she thought it was possibly the best book she’d ever read. The next day, my older son came home from school with an audio copy of the book. We listened to it in the car as a family, then sat in our living room and finished it.

A few days later, unable to take the library’s waiting list, I ran out and bought a hard cover copy of Catching Fire (second book in the series). We read it as a family on a long road trip. I obsessed about the story and characters all during that vacation.

When we got home, I pre-ordered Mockingjay (third and final book of the series). When it arrived in August, my older son and I fought over it, and I (being much older) won. I read it first, then he read it, then I began reading it out loud to my younger son. (I read it twice in about a week.) My husband is reading it now.

So, you ask, what is this book about?

It is set in the future after some sort of nuclear war or disaster. North America is divided into 13 districts and the Capitol. After District 13 rebelled and was destroyed (about 75 years before the book begins), the Capitol initiated the Hunger Games. One boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen by lottery from each district to participate in the games. The Hunger Games take place in a wilderness-sort of arena, they are televised, and the children participating must kill each other until only one is left. So, now you know why I first decided I didn’t want to read it. Pretty icky stuff.

But Suzanne Collins is a magnificent writer. It is a horrible world, but the characters are gems. They aren’t all lovable or even likable, but they are all incredible. Every single character has depth and grows over the course of the trilogy (unless they die, of course, and there is plenty of that). There aren’t easy answers or solutions to the myriad of problems, but the people try to survive in the best way they each know how.

It is rare for a book (or movie) to deliver fast-paced, violent action and delicate, complicated characters. The people in this world sometimes do horrible things to survive, but they never recover from it. They are irretrievably damaged or changed by what they do and what happens to them.

You have to read these stories. You’ll be changed too.

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