My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Our story is about 16-year-old Katniss and her trial through the brutal competition known as the Hunger Games in a post-now society world. Starting from abject poverty in a coal town where she illegally hunts for food to feed her family and progressing into the “there can be only one” nature of the competition, Katniss finds allies and enemies while under the oppressive all seeing eye of the Capitol.
The dystopian future set up in the world of Panem makes for a provocative look into our own future, at least if things go to hades in some kind of basket. After a brutal war, the United States is divided into districts like a Trivial Pursuit wheel with the evil Capitol in control in the center. Our home base of District 12 where Katniss lays her head is a great entry as it shows how a poor mining town can toughen our protaganist up and give her a kick ass attitude.
And toughen her up it does. Katniss is so brash and likeable that I almost want her to be portrayed by 1988 Bruce Willis, spitting catchphrases and taping a bow to her back. The supporting characters are largely unobtrusive, hinting at more but held back as we only see them through Katniss’s eyes. The romance aspect works, but only to the point where you want the girl to get the guy in that “OMG, I’m Team Gale” kinda way. The soap opera is a distraction for the overall story, but one that will draw some readers in.
The story is fairly well told with spare writing that fits the action-centric nature of the book. The book is “show, don’t tell” almost to a fault, sacrificing description for pacing. And boy does it pace. Once our stage is set and everyone gets to killing, the pages seem to turn themselves. We also miss motivation for a lot of the action beyond “everyone wants you dead” and “except the guy that wants to snuggle with you.” I would like to have had a little more insight into why these games exist beyond the teenage version of gladiatorial combat.
Overall, this book a fun read. Those looking for a little bit more depth in their dystopias may want to just re-read 1984, but I see no wonder that teenagers are eating this series up. I am excited to go on to the next one.
Why was it banned?
This book was banned in certain areas for the violence and graphic nature of the deaths. For some reason, people do not like their children reading about dismembering each other. There are also some animals and implied genetic modifications that could bring on the nightmare. I would also not be surprised that some would object to the use of sex (as a weapon and defense) as a factor in helping you live as well as questioning authority and government in general.