The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is a dystopian young adult novel, and, even if I'm slowly moving away from young adult literature, I love dystopias.
The world in this book is a place where most people are hungry everyday of their lives. Of course these are the ones who live in the districts: the poor ones, the descendants of the rebels that tried to take down the Capitol city, and lost.
As a way to control the population against future rebellions, and to entertain those who are not so unfortunate, the Government hosts the Hunger Games, in which a boy and a girl from each district – 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18, are sent into an arena, pitted against each other, fighting for survival and to the death. There is no escape from the games; once the Tributes are chosen, they either die or win. And only one wins.
Katniss, our heroine, volunteers as a Tribute, saving her younger sister from this fate. Together with Peeta, the boy Tribute from her district, she must try to win, to bring some respite from hardship and hunger to her district.
I liked The Hunger Games. It was well paced and gripping. Action was never missing from the story, but not at the expense of character development. I slowly came to like Katniss, who is quite cold, but made so by her life. By the middle of the book, I was truly rooting for her. The ideas on this book are horrific, after all this is a story where kids fight to death, but it doesn't use blood and guts to cause revulsion. It comes from imagining what it would be like.
The story could also be seen as a social commentary. The hunger in the far away districts, while there is so much in the Capitol – there is a lot of that going out in our world, no need for a dystopia in the far future. The reality TV aspect is also strong. People watch kids slaughter each other on TV. They watch them starve or freeze to death. And there are two sides to this as well. Because most watch it because they have to, but there are those who watch it for fun.
I really hope this gets more developed in the next books. I liked the construction of this imperfect world, twisted to its core. I would like to know what happens next, if it relates with the Capitol, or only District 12. There is potential for a lot in here.
And now for the final comment. The Teams. With hyped books, especially when there is a kickass heroine like Katniss, and when there is more than one male character of suitable age to be a romantic partner, readers will pick sides. It happened in Harry Potter, with the ship wars; it happened with Twilight, with teams for each possible character; and I'm quite sure we can trace this throughout time in literature – Team Darcy and Team Whickham; Team Paris and Team Menelaus, etc. In The Hunger Games, there is Gale, the childhood friend, and Peeta, the competitor/ally in the Games. So even before I finished the book I was asked: Which team?
To that I say: None!
But let me explain. I could see the romantic story being developed. It was hard to miss. However, it is much one sided, and I think there is a reason for that. Katniss has issues – trust issues, among other things. She doesn't need a boyfriend. I think she wouldn't know what to do with one. What she desperately needs is friends. Friends to help her trust in people, not to be so calculating and cold. More than Gale and Peeta, I think she needed more people like Rue and Cinna, who have showed her kindness where she expected none. To some extent Gale and Peeta also fit that role, but again as friends. Not boyfriends.
Another of my problems with picking a side is that I know a lot about one character, and nothing about the other. Hardly seems fair, right? Peeta, I liked. He was homely, pretending to be a bit dumb when he wasn't, and showing cunning when he or Katniss were in danger. Gale seems like he would also be a good sort of guy. But that is about as much as I could get from the book: a nice and quiet guy. Not much to go on. So I'll reserve judgement on the romantic aspect for the next book.
I know I will read the next two in the series, even if I'm expecting to be somewhat disappointed (from what I could gather from skimming the reviews for Mockingjay). With a more definite ending, The Hunger Games could easily be a standalone book – an a very good one at that.