I had been wanting to read The Hunger Games since it came out, but had not found it in in any library. I can understand why. To assign it to a genre is not easy. At times it is and adventure, a romance, science fiction and above all, dystopian.
Set in Panem, formerly North America, Collins tells a story of how far reality shows can go. Every year, twenty-four young people, a girl and boy from each of the twelve districts is sent to the Capitol to participate in a fight to the death. Only one will survive the ordeal that is not only televised throughout the country, but is mandatory viewing.
Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old who lives with her mother and younger sister, Prim(rose) in District Twelve, the Seam, in what appears to be like Appalachia with its dependence on the coal mines for economic survival. "Catnip" as she is called by Gale, an older boy on whom she has a crush, is a savvy hunter and knowledgeable about the woods and survival. On the day of the Reaping when the tributes to the Hunger Games are chosen by lot, it is Prim's name that is called first. Realizing that her sister would never survive the games, Katniss immediately volunteers in her place. She is joined by Peeta, the son of the town baker as the two representatives who will be sent to their sure death in the Capital.
The journey begins as the two travel to the Capitol by train with their mentors HaymitchCinna and Portia. It is up to the stylists to prepare them in an attractive way so that they may be worthy of sponsor money. In an elaborate ceremony all the contestants are presented to the public. It is then that Peeta declares that he has been in love with Katniss since they were five. It was a twist that she never expected, but one that she could exploit as she prepared her survival plan. The next day they would find themselves in the fight of their lives in the "arena," an expansive area of jungles, desserts, lakes, rivers, and wild animals where the Gamemakers control all aspects of the environment.
The novel is incredibly exciting and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning page after page. I loved the character of Katniss. She is empathetic, clever, and resourceful. We root for her and Peeta, but realize there can be only one winner and they are the two underdogs to the stronger players like Thresh, Cato, and Foxface.
There are familiar elements here. The scenario of the games reminded of the tributes that the ancient Athenians sent every year to Crete to battle the Minotaur. Katniss and Peeta appear as star-crossed lovers at the mercy of others around them even as Romeo and Juliet did. It was a grand read and I anxio Abernathy and Effie Trinket, two eccentric personalities. Once at their destination they are escorted to their rooms and meet their stylists, usly await the time when I can get my hands on Catching Fire, the second part of the trilogy.