Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - review

Young Adult Fantasy


Cover - I love that this is a YA book, featuring a young girl, and a cover that DOES NOT FEATURE a girl with flowing, translucent material that turns into either smoke or some other design floating delicately around the edges of the cover....Don't get me wrong - some of the young adult covers are absolutely beautiful - but like all other genres, when there's a good cover revealed then it gets used and re-used in all possible versions. And there are so many versions! This cover has a pin that the mayor's daughter has given to Katniss along with the suggestion of a target scope.

I don't normally read YA books - I read a few, such as Lili St. Crow, J.A. Campbell't think of any others that I'm really into on a regular basis - y'know, the type of auto-buys that I have with many UF or SciFi authors. Right at this moment, the only YA auto-buy novelists that I follow are J.A. Campbell and Lili St.Crow; and St.Crow get's into my auto-buy because she's already on my auto-buy category because I was already following her adult UF books (under the name of Lilith Saint Crow) - J.A. Campbell earned her auto-buy status by virtue of writing, and the fact that I loved a snippet that she let me read long ago. :) My longwinded point is that I don't normally go searching out YA reads. One day, I was bemoaning the fact that I had recently went to the bookstore and couldn't find any new books that interested me enough to buy - now this is in spite of the fact that I have about 100 or so books sitting here waiting for me to crack them open....I have a problem, people! An Addiction problem. And book buying addiction and Book Attention Deficit Disorder (aka B.A.D.D., and it's a genuine faux disorder,) - it's very, very sad (I say with an insane laugh) I was at work at the time, at a school discussing books with a reading teacher. She tells me that I should read this book and pulls out Hunger Games. I told her I wasn't really into YA books (being about FORTY years older than most young readers - well, 35 years younger. sometimes every year counts, y'know) but she said "oh no! you need to try this - it may be young adult, but oh...". So despite my misgivings about reading a story where teens from 12 - 18 are forced to kill each other to win and survive a survival game that's as huge and viewed as the olympics - only instead of wanting to watch, many are forced to watch - I went ahead and borrowed her copy. And of course, she had a first edition copy of the hardback version, which I'm afraid to besmirch, or accidently I took the cover off and covered it with "homemade" book cover, only read it when I wasn't eating dinner or other meals, no reading while snacking, no candy while reading, I made sure it was put up high, out of reach of children, etc. Which means I didn't read it around any of the grandchildren...etc. Which means reading The Hunger Games took me almost two weeks to read, even though it was so engrossing that it was hard for me to put down when I did get a chance to pick it up.

Though the subject matter was pretty intense, The Hunger Games was an intensely amazing read. Set in a futuristic post-war, post disaster America now called Panem - people now live in 12 districts that owe tribute to and are oppressed by The Capitol. The book starts out with Katniss getting ready for her daily hunt, and it's only gradually that you find out that not only is this hunting a daily thing with her, but it's illegal, they depend on it to eat, she barters with an illegal black market, and pretty much everyone in town - from the citizens to the "peacekeepers" are in on a quietly blackmarket lifestyle, just so they can survive. The information is given in bits and pieces and it's horrifying to find out that every year, each district is forced to attend, and pretend it's fun - a party like atmosphere like a fourth of July celebration - the yearly "Reaping". The Reaping is a lottery where one girl and one boy is picked each year to attend the Hunger Games - a survival of the fittest type of game where the last person alive is the winner. Horrific.

Katniss's little delicate flower of a sister, on her first reaping is picked. Katness volunteers to go in her place. The other participant is Peeta, the baker's son. Throughout the novel, little bits and pieces of different characters are slowly given, building in layers characters and the history of the Panem and the old United States.

Written in the first person, present tense, I found the narration to be engaging and the dialog between characters very believable. I was at times horrified and entertained - because no matter what, temporary happiness, the first time Kat was able to try different food, saw herself on T.V., was put through a makeover, etc - the underlying theme was these kids had to KILL each other to survive. And of course, if they did survive they were set for life, and their district would benefit a bit by their win.

I'm enjoying the hell out of this story, it's a blend of furistic suspense, big bad government and with just the smallest bit of SciFi - not a lot... (cures, body enhancements, applications, gene-tweaked birds, etc) = but really - there's not much of a fantasy or SciFi twist to things - but then suddenly toward the end comes this WTF moment for me......SPOILER ALERT........




there are, I kid you not - some sort of animal/reanimated dead people running around killing people, like Island of Dr. Moroau mixed with re-animated were-people mix....W.T.F. and then a hole in the ground opens up and the oddly mixed animal/were/formerly dead people just walk away - calmly walk away into the ground, and once again. I ask W.T.F.?



*end of spoiler alert....

now, if you've read this series, you know what I'm referring to - if you haven't I hope the spoiler alert and black font help protect you from spoilers... Whatever was going on - that section didn't seem to quite fit - it seemed kind of suddenly out of the blue, coming from left field, blindsiding someone and then no more hint of things like that until the miraculous medical care....It just didn't quite fit with the rest of the story - unless it's a hint of things to come.......

Regardless of that strange UF/Horror/SciFi interlude, the story was great, with good narration and believable dialog. Kept me engrossed, (and temporarily perplexed). I looked up the other two books on everyone's favorite website for reading the wildly mixed reviews and of course saw that there's a wild mix of reviews of ratings - so once again I'm not sure if the two sequels will be excellent reads or the worst book ever to rest between book covers. I could always skim a few pages at the bookstore and go from there I guess. According to some the books just got better and better, while for others the books were a huge disappointment. Meaning I'll have to read them for myself and find out - based on Collins' writing style though, at least I know the book will be a good read - even if she does insert random SciFi'ish characters. So I enjoyed The Hunger Games, late as I was to the Hunger Game table (haha) and will probably eventually read the sequels.

**disclaimer** - I'm half asleep as I write this, so I hope it makes sense.

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