Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

I normally never like what is "Popular" in Tween culture. Twilight, Harry Potter, zombie anything, all of these have never appealed to me, yet they are inexplicably, wildly popular with Teens and tweens all over the country. I figured that the Hunger games was just another fad that I would ignore. And I did for awhile.

Thinking back, I actually remember when the first book came out. I found it at the library, picked it up and read the description. It did hold my interest, but I was getting to the point where work was taking over my life, and I had pretty much stopped reading, so I set it down. I found it a couple more times over the next couple of years and briefly considered it each time, because there was something about the story that was compelling, despite the horrific-seeming plot.
In the future, North America has fallen apart. There are no countries, only 12 districts, ruled by a totalitarian president, who forces 2 teenagers from each district to compete in "The Hunger Games" A gladiator-like fight to the death on live television for the entertainment of "The Capitol" the city in which the elite class and the president live in luxury. The games keep the population under his control, as the games serve as a reminder of what happens to those who rebel. There used to be 13 districts, but district 13 had been blown off the map after rebelling 74 years earlier.
This is not the sort of thing I like to read, yet something kept drawing me to it. Ultimately I never read them back then. Like I said, I pretty much stopped reading once I started working, which is really sad actually, because I used to be a voracious reader. I'd bring home stacks of books from the library and plow through them in a week, and then bring them back and restock. I am going to try to get back into that habit, albeit on a much more manageable scale. I can't imaging I'll ever have the time I used to have as a kid. I was sick a lot and I had PLENTY of time to read. These days I've outgrown the sickness, and I work way too much to go through a book a day.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, a few months ago I started hearing about the Hunger Games again. At first I didn't connect them to the books I'd found a few years ago. I only heard the "Fight to the death" stuff, and I was turned off instantly. I've been in a bit of a funk these last few years and I've tried to keep my entertainment much lighter. Then, thanks to Facebook, I found out that many of my friends and family were starting to read them, and I was hearing glowing reviews, so I started considering reading them myself. I'm not sure when I realized that this was the same series I'd seen at the library a few years before, but when I did I pretty much decided I needed to just read them already.

I have an Amazon Kindle, so after receiving a notification that the Hunger Games trilogy was available for borrowing through Amazon Prime, I decided to go for it. It was free, and if I hated it I wouldn't be out anything. I did not hate it. I loved the first book, and I loved the second, Catching Fire, even more than the first. And while I can't say that I loved Mockingjay, the final book, in the same way that I loved the other two, I can say that I don't think I'd want the story to have ended any other way.

The books center around a girl named Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her little sister's place in the Hunger Games. As most will guess since she is the main character, she wins the games, but by winning the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss unintentionally sparks a rebellion, out of which a war begins during the 75th annual Hunger Games. Katniss becomes the most important "Player" that the rebels have in their fight against The Capitol.

It could have been a very tragic end. Well, really it was tragic. So many characters died by the end of the series. So many changed for the worse, including the main character, though through the epilogue it becomes more bittersweet, showing that even though horrific things happen, it won't stay that way forever and time will heal all wounds; not completely heal them, as though they never happened, but at least ease the pain.

To me the story is not only about the dangers of "Big Government", but also about the evils of war, and what one has to become in order to win a war, even a war that is necessary for freedom. There could be no sunshine and lollipops end to a series like this. Had it been a "Happily-Ever-After" type story it would have completely dulled the point that the author was trying to make, and would have felt forced and fake. The end felt so much more real than an "Everybody lived and nothing bad ever happened again" end.

Even though I almost never buy movies without watching them first, I pre-ordered The Hunger Games movie. From what I've read, the author was directly involved in the screenplay, and the movie was incredibly faithful to the book. Of course the violence had to be minimized to attain a PG-13 rating, but I am glad for that. Some of what happened during the books, I just do not want to see on screen, and I am still a bit skeptical of how they are going to continue to get PG-13 ratings for the rest of the films, especially on the final movie. If the movie is even half as good as the book, I will love it.

To sum up my review of the series: Read the Hunger Games. You won't regret it. You will be sucked in, and you won't be able to put them down. You might even shed a tear by the end. More than once. (I admit nothing.) :p

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