Wait…you wanted more detail? Okay:
The continent once known as ‘North America’ is now a totalitarian country called Panem. It consists of a wealthy, shining Capitol, surrounded by 12 poorer outlying districts, each of which is dedicated to a specific industry. A thirteenth district was wiped out many years ago after a failed attempt at rebellion against the Capitol.
As a punishment for this rebellion, and as a reminder to the districts of the Capitol’s power, each year the Capitol hosts ‘The Hunger Games’. All children in the districts between the ages of 12 and 18 are required to register for a lottery known as ‘the reaping’. One boy and one girl from each district are chosen as ‘tributes’ and taken under guard to the Capitol to compete in a vicious televised fight to the death, which only one can survive. Watching the event on television is mandatory for all citizens. Openly decrying the Capitol is dangerous, yet simmering beneath the surface is an undercurrent of rebellion, especially among the poorest districts.
The Hunger Games is seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the 74th Hunger Games. She travels to the Capitol with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark, painfully aware that in a few days they will be mortal enemies. It is written in first person, present tense, which lends an immediacy to the story – my Kindle was practically glued to my hand for two days and I was disappointed whenever I had to put it down to work, eat or sleep.
Suzanne Collins has done a brilliant job of creating a believable world and there is a great deal of depth to the main characters. I especially enjoyed the way she explored the divide between the rich, self-obsessed residents of the Capitol, and the tributes who are faced with the choice to kill or be killed. We also see the effects of survivor’s guilt, as the district 12 mentor – Haymitch Abernathy, winner of the 50th Hunger Games – is shown as an alcoholic who has been worn down by years of losing the tributes he has mentored ever since his own victory.
Now that I’ve finally read The Hunger Games, I can’t believe I waited so long. While the subject matter is probably not for everyone, it is brilliantly written. The drama is compelling, and the only reason I haven’t already started on the sequel Catching Fire is that part of me feels like I (and perhaps Katniss & Peeta) need a few days to catch our breath before putting them through hell once again!