Warning: potential spoilers
There has been so much buzz about this trilogy on the book blogosphere that I couldn’t resist picking it up. But like anything that gets lots of positive press, I was slightly nervous when I began listening to the audiobooks in case I didn’t love them as much as everyone else. I needn’t have worried!
The entire trilogy is narrated by Carolyn McCormick, who is a superb narrator. She really encapsulates Katniss’s essence, the pace and the highs, lows and horrors of the story. I was sucked in and wrung dry through each book, barely able to press the pause button on my iPod.
Set in the future, The Hunger Games is a fantastically compelling and dark dystopian novel. It tells the story of Katniss, a young woman who lives in district twelve of the poorest districts in the country, where many people suffer from hunger. Katniss helps feed her family by poaching daily in the local forest with her best friend Gale & selling any excess game on the black market.
This new world is brutal and cruel, ruled by the unscrupulous Capitol. Years ago the districts rebelled and the Capitol will never let it be forgotten. As a punishment, each year two children from each district, one boy and one girl aged between 12 and 18, are selected to enter ‘The Hunger Games’, a violent reality show where the children must fight to the death until one child remains.
Each year the town people pray it is not their child that is selected. Then the unthinkable happens, Katniss’s little twelve year old sister gets selected for the games. Katniss has spent her whole life protecting her little sister and does the only thing she can think of and volunteers to go in her place.
Believing she is sentencing herself to a death sentence, the book tells of Katniss’s journey leading up to and of the games itself. The tone shifts itself between unbearably painful, to shockingly violent and then to desperately sad. The narrative is written so well, you become fully submerged into Katniss’s story willing her to survive after every shocking incident. Like her, you begin thinking she cannot survive, to daring to believe with her poaching skills maybe, just maybe she might be a contender.
Katniss is one of those heroines you cannot help but admire. She is vulnerable yet tough, naive, but at the same time intelligent and a fast and strategic thinker. The book does contain a slightly unexpected, and at times awkward love story. But it adds a really great twist the games itself.
There is one scene worth a special mention, not want wanting to spoil it, I shall say look out for the scene with the singing and flowers. You will know it when you reach it. If you manage to remain dry eyed, you are a tougher person than I!
This novel is also as much about social commentary as it is a fantastic story. It highlights current issues with popularity of celebrity and our fascination with the shallow and unimportant. It is perhaps at its darkest when it focuses not on the contestants of the games, but the shallowness of the people who organise it. The shock of the frivolous behaviour we see from the TV presenters as they gush over the contestants like they are the luckiest new celebrity in town, combined with such a macabre subject is ironic writing at its best. You can’t help but see the inevitable comparisons it draws between ‘The Hunger Games’ and the plethora of reality TV shows that are on our screens everyday.
But also, there was something about this book that had a ring of George Orwell’s 1984 for me. The dystopian setting, the ghastly government messages and the control and subjugation of people, society broken into tasks and regions. The terrible fear of what would happen to you if you voiced a criticism against ‘The Capitol’.
A really stunning novel that I cannot help but implore you to read. It’s excellent, and is one of those stories that sucks you in, churns you up and leaves you gasping for more. Don’t let the dark premise put you off, yes it’s gory and shocking at times and does involve children killing one another, but trust me when I say it’s written very well, and is not gratuitous at all.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
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