Kids these days (and days in the future, too)

Okay, I’m a bit slow on the uptake ~ I just discovered this book recently. In fact, searching back I see that Jodie K. already reviewed it last December (editor’s note: LeAnn reviewed it too). As a general rule, I don’t usually review best sellers (especially ones that are already a couple years old ~ okay, I’m way slow on the uptake), preferring to give exposure to the local and/or new authors. But will that stop me? Nyuh uh. Not this time. Hunger Games was just too fun a book to pass up. Well, maybe ‘fun’ is not the right word.

Getting on in years I find myself drifting back to young adult books. Hey, if Neil Gaiman and Pete Hautman are going to be writing ’em, then I’m going to be reading ’em. Now I’m adding Suzanne Collins to my list of favorite authors of young adult fiction. Hunger Games is her first book of a trilogy.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is forced to kill or be killed in the television event of the year. Panem (formerly North America) is divided into twelve districts controlled through fear and intimidation by Capitol (similar to The Alliance in the great TV series, “Firefly”). One way to keep the people cowed is every year the name of a girl and boy from each district will be drawn and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death until there is only one survivor, all of which everyone will watch on TV (similar to the not so great Stone Cold Steve Austin movie, “The Condemned”). Although the concepts aren’t highly original, the writing is tight, fast paced, and gripping. The characters have a very real feel about them, each one with strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, each is flawed.
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The heroine, Katniss, is a rebel. In spite of Capitol rules, she will travel into the forbidden zone to hunt with her friend, Gale, even knowing that to get caught could mean death. As good as her hunting instincts are, sometimes I wanted to scream at her as she so often misread people’s obvious intentions. Still, it’s no surprise that Katniss steps in to replace her little sister when her sister’s name is drawn.

Once they are in the arena (a pretty big tract of land), alliances are formed. As a reader I was kept guessing as to who would eventually betray whom. Collins did a masterful job of creating a small world where not only do the children have to defend themselves against each other, but also against the elements (that can also be manipulated by the Capitol when the action, and killing, seems to be too slow).

‘Something keeps me moving forward, though. A lifetime of watching the Hunger Games lets me know that certain areas of the arena are rigged for certain attacks. And that if I can just get away from this section, I might be able to move out of reach of the launchers. I might also then fall straight into a pit of vipers, but I can’t worry about that now.’ p. 175

This is a quick-paced novel that I didn’t want to put down. The action is interspersed with real emotion, the kind one can really believe a sixteen-year-old would feel. If Hunger Games is any indication of what’s to come, I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

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