Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Hello, true believers!

I've had a crazy week. The operative word here is "crazy." I would love to write about it, but it's way too soon. So let me just tell you about a sub-category of Crazy, i.e. Wild: Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, a young adult book trilogy deemed interesting enough to transform into a film, starring current It girl Jennifer Lawrence. And because I'm too lazy to actually write paragraphs, I'll bullet form the whole thing for everyone's convenience:

Setting: A dystopian future on Earth. Humanity is confined to one country, Panem, which is composed of the ruling Capitol and 12 districts that provide specialized products (e.g. District 2: police forces; District 7: lumber; District 12: coal). In some districts, most people are usually a day away from total starvation.

Trivia: Panem in Latin means bread.

How You Know You're Not In Kansas: There are hovercrafts, mutant hybrids grown in labs, arena-sized force fields, and modern fashion means dyeing your entire body a solid color. The cover art is a Mockingjay, the unexpected result of the mating of manufactured birds and natural birds.

Main character: Katniss, a coal miner's daughter from District 12. She's 16 or 17. I totally forgot.

Why She's Cool: Katniss loves to hunt and is a crack shot with a bow and arrows. She's fiercely protective of her kid sister, proudly independent from her fragile mom, and sings so well that birds stop to listen. Katniss is like an angry Night Elf from Warcraft II combined with a classic Disney Princess: she will smile sweetly at you right before she shoots you in the eye. Also, with a team of Capitol stylists she's practically goddess-like in appearance.

Major Characters: Peeta, the baker's son; Haymitch, a middle-aged Hunger Games victor; and Gale, Katniss' hunting partner.

Why They're Cool: Peeta and Gale are total hotties who have the hots for Katniss. Haymitch is a drunken slob, but he sobers up enough to guide Katniss and Peeta through the Hunger Games.

What The Hunger Games Are: In the book, the Capitol "reaps" two annual tributes from each district, one boy and one girl, to compete in a fight to the death in its arena. These so-called Hunger Games are used to simultaneously punish the districts for rebelling against the Capitol so-and-so years ago and to demonstrate the Capitol's power.

The Fun Part: There's a lot of food and styling (!) descriptions in the book, once the characters get to the Capitol and have to be made camera-ready for the live audience waiting to see who wins this year's Games.

The Horrific Part: The tributes are aged 12 through 18. So 24 kids are put into a death-trap arena, must fight each other for their weapons and supplies, and then only one can survive. So Katniss spends a lot of her time plotting how to kill everyone including Peeta, who once gave her bread when her family was starving.

The Impressive Part: As narrator, Katniss is a joy. She's so dense that readers typically figure out what's happening long before she does, which makes us feel Smart. She is also deadly, ruthless, manipulative, and unfriendly, which makes us feel Nice About Ourselves (in comparison). Deep down, she has a noble and self-sacrificing streak. She's snarky and gets great one-liners. She also beats the odds, which fulfills all our narrative expectations.

The Twist(s): Like I'm going to tell you. But all of them are kinda predictable and really cool when they happen, so yay for execution, meh for twistiness. The contrivances that led to some of them made me snort with laughter.

Major Themes: Tyranny; freedom; growing up too fast; first romantic love; survival; the effects of murder on the murderer; shallow lifestyles; entertainment; power and symbolism; and more!

Why You Should Read It: You're bored? You don't have to. You can watch the movie, or you can have me tell you all about it. I assure you, my version will be more full of personality and analysis, and probably borderline incoherent.