I picked up The Hunger Games a few weeks ago, when I was in Los Angeles for an extended weekend. I was at Borders with my sister; and not wanting to let the opportunity go to waste, I hastily took to the aisles browsing, while feverishly flipping through my mental rolodex for a title that would spark my interest. After rejecting a good number of potential titles, I settled on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Borders and Barnes & Noble had been bombarding my inbox all week with promotional e-mails for the release of the series’ final installment, Mockingjay, and I was curious as to why so much to-do was being made about the series. I grabbed a copy, and wedged myself between the travel section and the gifts aisle to read. I was captivated by the end of the first chapter.
I liked Katniss from the get go. Her deadpan humor amused me greatly. And I trusted her as an adolescent character because she was so unlike the materialistic, boy-crazy, and emotionally spastic creatures that I so often see on television or on the shelves of the teen section at Borders. She is self-reliant, sensible, and refreshingly pragmatic; a girl who can expertly handle a bow and arrow, and put food on the table for her family. I guess it’s hard not to be all that, when you lived the sort of life she had.
I suppose now that my mother was locked in some dark world of sadness, but at the time, all I knew was that I had lost not only a father, but a mother as well. At eleven years old, with Prim just seven, I took over as head of the family. There was no choice. I bought our food at the market and cooked it as best I could and tried to keep Prim and myself looking presentable. Because if it had become known that my mother could no longer care for us, the district would have taken us away from her and placed us in the community home.
I remember reading that for the first time, and feeling a mixture of admiration and guilt — admiration for Katniss, for keeping her family together at such a young age; and guilt for having complained and taken so much for granted, when my life is so much easier than that of Katniss and her family. My father didn’t die when I was a child. My mother didn’t dive off the emotional deep end. I didn’t have to make ends meet as an eleven-year-old. Yes, my family isn’t perfect, and we have our own problems and trials. But a lot of those problems seem small when compared to what Katniss had to go through. I am definitely a lot more conscious and realistic now about what I “need,” and what I say I need but really just “want.” And what is merely an inconvenience and what is truly a tragedy.
Other things that I like about the book: (In summary format, as a favor to you all. Trust me.)
♚ Panem — Katniss’ world. “A shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts,” as the summary in the back so beautifully puts it. I think it’s cool how Panem is supposed to be our North America, but in the far future, after wars and natural disasters have ravaged much of the continent.
♚ The Capitol. Not so much for the city itself — although from Katniss’ brief description, I’m sure it looks amazing — but for its outrageous fashion sense. Skin-dyeing? Eyebrow-dyeing? The psychedelic colors? It’s so horrible and gaudy and over-the-top that it’s brilliant. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how art direction will interpret it in the upcoming movie.
Here’s a sampling:
“You’re doing very well,” says some guy named Flavius. He gives his orange corkscrew locks a shake and applies a fresh coat of purple lipstick to his mouth. (ch. 5)
It’s a little scary because [Caesar Flickerman’s] appearance has been virtually unchanged during all that time. Same face under a coating of pure white makeup. Same hairstyle that he dyes a different color for each Hunger Games. Same ceremonial suit, midnight blue dotted with a thousand tiny electric bulbs that twinkle like stars. (ch. 9)
♚ Effie Trinket. She reminds me of a futuristic (albeit, tamer) Dolores Umbridge, with her pink hair and unpleasant turn of mind.
♚ Cinna — Katniss’ brilliant stylist. It’s so heartwarming to see him and Katniss bond. Especially because Katniss has no one she can completely trust and confide in.
♚ Collins’ good handling of suspense. This book was definitely a page-turner.
Some things that I didn’t like:
♚ Twilight love triangle liek whoa! Ugh.
♚ Katniss’ first-person narration. Collins had her running what was essentially a real time play-by-play of what happens to her in the book. It was cool at the beginning, but straight up awkward and artificial at times in the middle.
Conclusion? I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. It was a fun read, and not in the least devoid of substance. I am all eagerness to read Catching Fire. But that won’t be for a while, because 1) I want to buy the book in paperback, because a) I want to keep the book and not borrow it from the library, and b) paperback is much cheaper than hardcover; and 2) I have no idea when the paperback edition will come out. As of a few weeks ago, it wasn’t on the shelves at my neighborhood Borders.
Oh well. I’ll live.