I don’t read a ton of fiction that is shelved as young adult (says the reviewer who just read Odd and the Frost Giants and did a complete reading of the entire Harry Potter series). However, there can come a time (like with the examples listed above) when a book truly transcends being cubby-holed as young adult. The huge popularity of Suzanne Collins’ new series, the Hunger Games trilogy, looked like it might be one of those cases, so I picked up the first book, The Hunger Games, and dove in.
Katniss Everdeen is a girl who is in that rough late-teen stage of her life, living in District 12, one of twelve state-like regions of Panem, the new North American country. Each year, every district has to send two tributes to the Hunger Games, in part to discourage rebellion against the Capitol, the head of the government. However, plans go awry as Katniss’ younger sister, Prim, is selected, along with the boy who saved her life as a child. To protect Prim, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and she is swept off into a vivid world of high style, gourmet food, war, and death.
Collins does an interesting job of exploring this seemingly post-apocalyptic future, with the odd societal roles being played out. She portrays the pervasive nature of these new memes well, ingraining them in the culture and the characters. This well-developed world made the conflict all the more compelling.
Katniss and her male equivalent, Peeta, are both wonderfully fleshed out, as Collins runs them through the wringer, and even the more minor characters of Rue, Haymitch, Cinna, and Effie are well done, each of them having distinct, powerful personalities. The conflict seen in the novel, of the society’s future killing each other, is in part a strong view of how it traumatizes Katniss and Peeta, and this introspection is wonderfully adapted into the otherwise physically violent nature of the tale.
The action is non-stop, be it the wonderfully fluid yet deep depictions of this society’s many cultures to the violence of the Hunger Games, Collins has created a novel that soars by, and is a true joy to read. Collins’ combination of a character-driven, yet action-packed story is incredibly well-done, and a sheer joy to read. There is little one could find not to their liking. Her wrap up has left an interesting premise for the second novel, Catching Fire, very much seeming to be a quite different type of novel. I, for one, cannot wait to check out this sequel, and am very glad it just came out.