The Hunger Games #1
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Honestly, I wanted to dislike this book. I wanted to be the person who read it, and said "Meh." Unfortunately, that's not quite what happened. I ended up reading the entire book in nearly one sitting and ordered the next 2 in the series right away. The book was fantastic. I had to remind myself from time to time that this was indeed, YA literature. The author didn't dumb down the situations, the dialog, or the characters. The plot was dark and she lets it be dark. I mean for crying out loud, the government are pitting children against themselves in a battle to the death, in order to remind everyone what their lives were like before the government's rule. That's freakin heavy. And Collins lets it be what it is. That's not to say that there aren't touching exchanges, or lovable characters, because there are a few. But yeah, this story is dark in subject. And it absolutely works.
The two main characters Katniss and Peeta quickly won me over, each in their own ways. I knew Katniss' character was a keeper the minute she took her spot in the competition. (and how she takes her spot in the competition) She doesn't whine about her place in life, or internalize things to death. She's smart, and she's tough when she needs to be, but she's also surprisingly tender when it counts. She's in it to win it, don't worry, but she never forgets the connection that her competitors and herself have. No matter that they're from different districts or have different day to day lives, they're all kept down by the same f'd up government, and they're all struggling to survive. Her grasp of the human connection will win your heart, and makes her character wise beyond her years.
Peeta is such a sweet guy, and I absolutely was not expecting it. He's not fawning all over Katniss, but does have a soft side. I wanted to root for him immediately. We're left to interpret his actions on our own, since the book is from Katniss' POV, but because his actions line up with his remarks, you put trust in his character. I was surprised by him a few times, but for the most part his character is never faltering. Because both characters are so relatable, they easily tie the audience to the plot, and the gruesome subject matter.
Bottom Line: If you've been the town cynic, like me, I beg you to give Hunger Games a go. The plot is tight and the pacing is perfect. The author lets the story be oppressive, thank god. And the teenage characters come off wiser than their 16 years. It's all win. Promise.