Warning: Only start this book on a day where you have no pressing responsibilities – you will not be able to put it down.
In a dystopian future, the nation of Panem (made up of a rich capitol and 12 poor districts) exists in what was once called North America. The capitol rules with an iron fist and discourages rebellion by cutting out the tongues of traitors and staging the annual Hunger Games – a fight to the death on live TV between tributes from the 12 districts (a boy and a girl from each for a total of 24) where only one can emerge victorious.
When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen is forced to volunteer in the place of her 12 year old sister, she doesn’t think she has much chance of winning. After all, the wealthier districts can send “career” tributes – volunteers who train for years for the games and who win more often than not. But a harsh life has made Katniss a survivor, her prep team prepares her well, and her fellow tribute from district 12, the charming and caring Peeta, has a plan that might just keep them both alive – at least for a while.
The Hunger Games grabbed me from page one and never let go. I only took one small break before I plunged back in to this gripping story. As you might suspect from the summary, the narrative is brutal at times, but the violence is never gratuitous or sensationalized. And it doesn’t overwhelm either, as we are given many scenes which are inspiring, humorous and even romantic.
Katniss is a strong female character, a bit surly (not that you can blame her considering the circumstances), but clever and loyal. It’s natural that we root for her as the tributes enter the arena. That we feel her pain when she’s attacked, burned, starving. That we cheer when “sponsors” send her something essential to staying in the game. And that we cry when the inevitable happens. I am rarely so emotionally involved in a story that I am moved to tears, but a certain scene in this book had me sobbing (fortunately not in public).
I’m not sure what to feel about the fact that this is the first book in a series. The main story of the 74th Hunger Games comes to a close, but I’m definitely curious about how the author will weave the loose threads together in the next book (s), perhaps filling out the bare bones back story of Panem. Problem is, I don’t want to wait – I would read all the rest of the books in the series now if I could.
My ARC says the release date is in October, but The Hunger Games appears to be on sale now at amazon. I say get it as soon as you can. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.