What started out as a Christmas gift for my wife turned into a 1200 page AMAZING read that I finished in 5 days, probably a new record for me. Yes, I enjoyed the series THAT much. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is an intense and exciting story that also covers a wide variety of important and difficult issues that continue to face humanity today.
The trilogy is set in a future where North America is wiped out and replaced with a country called Panem. The Hunger Games serve as a brutal and twisted reminder to all of the districts that challenged the Capitol nearly 75 years ago and lost. As punishment, 12 districts are required to send a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to compete in a death match competition. To add to the twisted nature of these games, they are televised for the entire nation to see. Contenders may receive gifts from “sponsors” along the way during the games, which can often mean the difference between life and death.
In this world we follow the story of a 16 year old girl named Katniss, who volunteers to go in place of her younger sister to compete in an event called the Hunger Games. She comes from District 12, home to coal miners who live in extreme poverty. To survive, Katniss has learned to feed her family by hunting game in the forbidden meadows, an selling or trading them on the equally forbidden black market in town. When she volunteers for the games, she has her resourcefulness of her time and hunting skills in the meadow to use, but it’s not much. On top of that, there’s also a fellow boy named Peeta from her district that she might have to kill. However, in an odd twist of events, Peeta professes his love for Katniss during an interview leading up to the games, which give the couple that “star crossed lover” story that the public just might believe and give support for during the games.
From here we jump into an intense story that start with the games themselves, where children are ruthless, brutal, an cunning. If Katniss doesn’t survive the games, her family is done for. If she does survive the games, how will killing other people affect her. In addition, there is the dynamic with Peeta, who is genuinely in love with her, not just making a ploy to win the public’s favor. However outside of the games, there is political turmoil stirring, as the pin that Katniss wears, that of the Mockingjay, serves as a subtle slap and rallying point against the Capitol for their mistreatment of the districts.
I really don’t want to outline much more of the plot without giving away the story. Part of the fun of this story are some of the twists and sudden events that happen during the entire story arc. The story is also written through the eyes of Katniss, which gives a larger sense of urgency to the story, as well as being overwhelmed by the world that Katniss is in. While the timeline was set in the future, and there was a lot of really interesting tech going on, it wasn’t overbearing. The characters, their actions and consequences, took more of the forefront. You could easily have written this story in modern times, but the distance of another land and another time allows you to step into the story more and it enjoy the intense scenes. It also allows you to take a step out and look at some of the larger issues going on and how they can apply to us today.
Some of the issues that compelled me through the series was:
Death: Facing your own and inflicting it upon others. Not to mention what happens when you see so much of it. Is one kind of death, or infliction thereof acceptable over another?
Rich/Poor: The citizens of the Capitol are well off compared to those in even the richest of districts. How their attitudes towards Katniss and Peeta, not to mention their reactions back, continues throughout the series, often at the oddest times.
War: Yes, there is war in the series. While the book is not anti-war, it definitely shows how both sides are affected by it, and how bystanders are affected by it too.
Love: There is a bit of a love triangle in the story, that seems to come up off and on throughout the series. Is there that one true person you’re meant to be with it? Could it be that one person at the time? Who are you most compatible with and why? Can you force yourself to love somebody?
Politics: What happens in the games spills out into the lives of others, even more so that any of the characters could have imagined. What would somebody do in order to protect themselves, or others, in the eyes of the public?
Katniss: Through it all there is Katniss. She’s already been through a rough start to life, and the games have made things worse. Who is she supposed to be? How will she get there? She reaches some very dark places in her life, and how she reacts to them becomes very thought provoking.
Even if you don’t look into some of the bigger issues with this series, the Hunger Games trilogy is very well paced and an amazing read that I highly recommend to anybody!