The Hunger Games – Book Review
The Hunger Games is the first novel in the Hunger Games trilogy by American author Suzanne Collins. The story is set in the dystopian nation of Panem, in the ruins of a place once known as North America; and is narrated from the perspective of the protagonist, the sixteen-year old Katniss Everdeen. The Capitol rules the nation cruelly and keeps the twelve districts in check by forcing them to send two ‘tributes’, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen, to participate in the highly glorified annual Hunger Games, a fight to death on live TV in a carefully planned arena. When Katniss’ twelve-year-old sister Primrose’s name is drawn for the Games, she volunteers to replace her, and thus becomes tribute alongside fellow District 12 citizen, Peeta Mellark. And even though Katniss has no hopes of survival, she is not ready to go down without a fight.
The novel is rapidly paced and brilliantly plotted, and even though the first part of the novel, titled ‘The Tributes’ may feel like a drag, it quickly picks up pace as it progresses to the second part, titled ‘The Games’. Readers are compelled to admire Collin’s skill at characterization, which makes even the cold and calculating Katniss likeable. Katniss has been portrayed throughout as a tough girl, a hunter in the woods, and has all the attributes to be a winner, whereas Peeta has the grace to be a good loser. In stark contrast to Katniss, Peeta is the nice guy who is not very concerned about winning the Games. He has the power of speech and spontaneity with which he sweeps people off their feet.
The best part of the book is that it doesn’t shy away from social or political issues and offers a broad anti-capitalist critique of the society. From the beginning, the readers are immersed in a world ravaged by war and hunger with an unjust, cruel government, who wield entertainment as a weapon against its own people. Collins replicates the vastly expanding rich-poor divide through the juxtaposition of the obscenely wealthy Capitol and the impoverished Districts.
Although the series has had many critiques due to its use of intense themes – such as murder, death, starvation, and abuse of power, this thought-provoking novel is extremely educational for young people and is led by a strong protagonist aptly named ‘the girl who was on fire’. This may be a in simple story about one girl and her struggle to survive, but it could be something much deeper than that.
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