Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hunger Games Series: BookNook Breakdown

The Hunger Games Series
by Suzanne Collins
Reading level: Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy The Hunger Games on Amazon
Buy Catching Fire on Amazon
Buy Mockingjay on Amazon

Set in the not too distant future, what was once the United States has been reduced through war and famine to the dystopian civilization of Panem. The 12 Districts composing it are at the constant mercy of The Capitol, the single malevolent and authoritative force bent on controlling the formerly unruly society into submission through their psychologically manipulative and violently inhumane "Hunger Games." In this annual event, The Capitol forces each district to offer "Tributes" (one male and one female of age) who will compete in a gladiatorial, televised battle to the death. It is in this cruel, harsh, and dismal world that our main character, Katniss Everdeen, is determined to survive at any cost.

Through the brutal Hunger Games themselves to the dangerous uprising of rebel forces against the Capitol, this three-book series is at its heart, one girl's uncompromising journey through a world devoid of hope and humanity towards a world where "living" doesn't just mean "surviving." Intense and engrossing from the beginning, it is a frightening and eye-opening imagining of a heartless world that leaves an unsettling imprint on your mind well after the last page has been read.

This is the first of Collins' work that I have read, and I was an immediate fan not only with the exceedingly well-crafted and disturbing world she has created but the immediacy and realism she brings to her characters. Even while they endure incomprehensible brutality, the people within these books are entirely real and their motivations believable. Exciting, thought-provoking, deeply unsettling, and yet completely captivating, this series flies by at a more addictively ravenous speed than any book I have read in recent memory. I simply could not get enough of the high-stress roller coaster ride of triumphs and tragedies found within the people and world of Panem.

Collins balances the roughness of the story as well as we could have hoped, creating a dark world with bits of light, humor, and glimpses of happiness sprinkled through. These breaks in the clouds are what makes the tension so bearable and the long journey enjoyable.

A bleak dystopian series like this doesn't find its value in how terribly horrifying it can be but in reflecting back to the reader's view of their own world. I for one, am a much more appreciative person for reading this book. Watching characters I care about struggle in a society constructed for their downfall is heartbreaking. We are routing for Katniss and her crew to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles not just because we want to see them "happy" but because we ourselves NEED to believe it is possible that some greater meaning and resolution will come from this violence. These books speak not to Panem but to our current world. They would be useless and meaningless if we did not examine ourselves in their light. If we can learn from mistakes made in a fictional world, there may be a chance to improve ourselves and prevent our own doom.

By the conclusion of the third book we as readers feel like we have taken a long and arduous journey on the backs of our characters. Their small but significant successess have been our triumphs, too. Collins closes our draining adventure in a befitting and satisfying way, never undermining or glorifying the violence of war and revolution, but simply underscoring the undeniable fact that life--decent and civil life-- can go on after all.


Adelaida said...

Sounds like a really interesting novel. Wonder if it will available in Poland sometime soon

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