Book review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Part One of The Hunger Games Trilogy

Have you heard the old truth United we stand, divided we fall...? It just means that people are strong when they stand and fight together. If they break into small groups they are easy to pick off and destroy.

Katniss lives in a world where civil war has been fought and lost. The population are divided into 12 Districts where they work hard to stay alive against hunger and cold, utterly impoverished. The victors live comfortably in the Capitol, and to remind the vanquished of their subservient position, the Capitol demands two tributes from each District, every year.

A terrible vengeful tribute is exacted. From each District a boy and a girl are chosen by lottery. They are forced into the arena where they fight to the death. The Hunger Games. There can be only one winner. The drama is watched live on TV.

So this is how they control the population. By division. Only one winner from one District. The Districts are in constant competition with each other. And they are never in doubt about the power of the Capitol.

But with the passing of time comes arrogance and complacency. When Katniss is called to play her part in the Hunger Games for District 12 along with Peeta, a new little twist develops. Are these two really madly in love with each other? Must one kill the other in order to win the Games? This novelty utterly seduces the loathesome viewing audience in the Capitol. They permit alliances to form, not only between Katniss and Peeta, but between tributes from other Districts too. Have they forgotten that the object of the Games is to divide the population? If the Districts learn to trust one another won't they find strength in unity? When Katniss shows compassion for a dead tribute from another District, the District sends a gift for her into the arena:

I open the parachute and find a small loaf of bread. It's not the fine white Capitol stuff. It's made of dark ration grain and shaped in a crescent. Sprinkled with seeds. I flashback to Peeta's lesson on the various district breads in the Training Centre. This bread came from District 11. I cautiously lift the still-warm loaf. What must it have cost the people of District 11, who can't even feed themselves? How many would've had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? It had been meant for Rue, surely. But instead of pulling the gift when she died, they'd authorized Haymitch to give it to me. As a thank you? Or because, like me, they don't like to let debts go unpaid? For whatever reason, this is a first. A district gift to a tribute who's not your own.
I lift my face and step into the last falling rays of sunlight. "My thanks to the people of District Eleven," I say. I want them to know I know where it came from. That the full value of their gift has been recognized.

It's a pity for the Capitol that they didn't recognise the full value of that gift. Katniss is a strong and resourceful player. What the people of the twelve districts need above all is a leader.

Peeta rolls his eyes at Haymitch. "She has no idea. The effect she can have."

I can hear the drum beat of war approaching...

What can I read next?

It's a trilogy and I'm pretty sure you'll hardly pause for breath between books. Katniss narrates her story in spare but honest words. The relentless leader, the unbreakable instinct to survive, the confusing heart breaking love triangle, the appalling brutality. The ultimately painful ending that never really gives closure. A compelling read that will give you plenty to think about. Highly recommended.

  • The Hunger Games
  • Catching Fire
  • Mockingjay

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