I’ve been reading a lot of series lately, as you might have noticed, which is a rather unusual trend for me. I also never paid much attention to young adult genre, as I usually find it too cheesy for my tastes (no offense intended to the millions of fans of the genre). However, I do pay attention to other bloggers who have been buzzing about The Hunger Games trilogy for years. Not knowing much about the books except that it included a bunch of teens killing each other, I decided to take a leap of faith and humor myself with a quick read. Well, quick wasn’t a word, because I finished the first installment in one weekend. It was hard to put down. Yes, it had its distinctive YA flavor of predictability, but I paid it little attention thanks to dynamic plot and never-ending action.
The Hunger Games refers to a yearly event initiated by the government of post-apocalyptic society of Panem. A boy and a girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen are randomly chosen from each of twelve districts to participate in a fight to the death, similar to how Romans used to entertain themselves with gladiator battles. The reason why the government organizes these games is apparently to punish the districts for revolting against the Capitol once upon a time and to prevent any future rebellion by showcasing their power over Panem citizens. The lead character is Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place as a “tribute” to the game. Along with her, Peeta Mellark is chosen as a second representative from the district. Katniss doesn’t know much about Peeta except that they go to the same school, that he is a son of a local baker, and that he had given her bread years ago when her family was starving.
Everybody wants to be Katniss Everdeen. She is a perfect strong female character that all those awkward and shy girls would love to picture themselves as. Katniss is independent, excels at what she does (hunting), has a somewhat tragic past that seems oh-so-romantic. She is one of the guys, yet doesn’t lose her femininity. She is unaware of the effect she has on the boys, and doesn’t seem to care. The only boy problem she ever has is which one to choose as her suitor. Katniss sacrifices herself for her sister; again, she is too noble for mortal faults like selfishness and cowardice. She is too perfect for my taste, but I do realize that I am reading a first-person narrative and must take every word with a grain of salt. Perhaps Katniss’ overall goodness is just a figment of her own imagination. But then again, considering the genre, I do not expect the characterization to go deeper than “as is.”
Of course, there is a love triangle. In fact, it is the romantic plotline that drives me insane when looking back on the book. It is outright silly and cliched. The girl has a male best friend, who drops hints here and there that he sort of likes her. The girl writes it off as her imagination. The girl goes to war against another boy, who obviously has been in love with her for ages and even proclaims it on public television. The girl again writes it off as a plan for survival. Gosh Katniss, you’re so blind! There are a few of cheesy romantic scenes that are supposed to appeal to the girly side of me, but kind of make me want to gag. You can smell the premise for the central relationship from the very first few chapters. Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. That being said, I am looking forward to the development of the triangle, as one side hasn’t played much of a role just yet.
Past the bad, I would like to cheer for the good parts of the book. The moment Katniss steps into the arena, I get so excited! She outruns fire, escapes poisonous mutant bees, sabotages an enemy camp, and teams up with unlikely allies. Every step is an adventure, whether it is an action-packed outmaneuvering of other tributes or a quiet day in search of food. Once the games begin, I cannot find a single moment, when I get bored and feel like skipping a page or two. It was pretty easy to predict who the winner was, but I wasn’t sure about Peeta’s destiny until the very end (well, I knew what was supposed to happen to him according to YA rules, but I was still hoping for something less obvious). Overall, I loved every moment of it. Also, Collins’ description of different food prepared in her fictional world made my mouth water. I should get myself a physical copy of the book, if I find one on a good sale somewhere, as I would love to reread it again sometime in the future.