The Hunger Games (The Hungers Games #1) by Suzanne Collins | Rating: ★★★★★
"I can feel Peeta press his forehead into my temple and he asks, ‘So now that you’ve got me, what are you going to do with me?’ I turn into him. ‘Put you somewhere you can’t get hurt.”
As tender as it is terrifying, The Hunger Games tells us the story of a brave young woman named Katniss Everdeen and the choice she made to protect her beloved younger sister, Primrose, from a nearly certain death. Although the story has elements of romance within the pages, don’t let the media fool you: The Hunger Games holds many aspects of love within each chapter.
The love between family being the most prominent when considering the sacrifices Katniss and her best friend, Gale, make to keep their families safe. Both characters have a certain fire and attitude to them that keeps the teenage spirit alive; even so, they both seem beyond their age. Katniss will go to any means to protect her little sister, including risking her own life so Primrose wouldn’t have to risk hers.
Katniss lives in a world of cruelty and uncertainty, somewhere in the distant future. She hasn’t known anything but the distract she’d grown up in — often faced with starvation and other tragedy. In life thus far, she has had to provide the care for herself and Prim at a degree most kids shouldn’t have to. At a young age, her father died — leaving her mother alone and depressed.
Although we don’t know much about the situation, we get the idea that her mother has suffered a downfall into mental illness in those years.
Our story opens a short while before the day most people in the districts of Panem dread: the drawing of two kids from each of the 12 districts on the outside of the Capitol to participate in the Hunger Games.
In this process, each district has two tributes between the ages of 12 and 18, one male and one female, who are sent to an arena to battle each other until all but one are dead.
It’s a cruel, televised event that is viewed as a treat for citizens of the capitol; a way to let the districts know that they own them. It’s been used as a way to prevent another rebellion — one that nearly destroyed Panem years prior to The Hunger Games opens. Yes, the capitol is quite fond of reminding these people that they are nothing but their property.
This year, Primrose Everdeen is especially nervous. Katniss, being the kind sister she is, encourages her sister to relax; noting that the odds are more likely that she wouldn’t get picked on her first year entering. But the unthinkable happens and as the overly perky Effie Trinket announces the years tributes; Prim’s name is called. And both girls’ worlds seem to stop until…
“I volunteer as tribute!”
Katniss doesn’t miss much of a beat to volunteer and take her siblings place. Her bravery is known instantly; although our girl has a hard exterior, she is known to protect her sister at all costs. Her numbness over being in this situation is rocked once more when a boy, Peeta Mellark, is picked as the male tribute.
Although Peeta and Katniss didn’t interact much on a personal note, Katniss feels a lump form in her throat over the two having to compete with each other. Many years ago, when Katniss is living on nearly nothing, Peeta — a kind bakers son — throws her a loaf of bread upon realizing she is starving. He saved her life once and now he could very well take it when they are in the arena.
After saying goodbye to her family and friends, Katniss is swept up into a world of luxury she’s never known as she walks the trail to a certain death. The Hunger Games comes with a world of responsibility she’s never had to have before — training, looking a certain way and more. Soon she is labeled as the girl on fire and becomes one of the tributes to beat; making her an instant target.
She finds a friend in her stylist, Cinna, and begins to understand just how much she has to work for her survival. Which is something she’s always had to work for, anyways — we see determination that is as admirable as her bravery in the days that lead up to the games. She continues to grow before our eyes and we can’t help but to want to protect her at all costs.
But there is one lingering thought: how could she ever survive this? Katniss is positive her fate is sealed. Even with her skills that set her about from other tributes, the odds don’t seem to be entirely in her favor. With a shocking revelation Peeta makes during an interview, claiming unrequited love between the two, she is thrust into an entirely different public view.
Suddenly, she is viewed as desirable. Peeta, her tragic love.
She isn’t pleased with this, but it isn’t something that can be taken back. And when the games begin, her fears grow stronger.
While in the arena, she takes to protecting a young girl — Rue. Rue is small and kind and very much so reminds Katniss of her sister. They become more than allies — they become friends. Determined to keep the girl alive, they work together for their survival — in spite of her best efforts, Rue is killed; leaving Katniss even more angry than she was before.
You can practically hear her internally screaming, “fuck the capital!” as she continues to fight for her survival and then for Peeta’s survival upon the realization he has been protecting her this entire time. With a change in the rules, she begins to believe she may actually get out of the arena alive — but at what cost?
The Hunger Games is a devastating story of subtle rebellion, love, family, bravery and friendship. When I first read it, I fell hard for the characters and have yet to stop loving it. It’s obvious why it’s so popular — characters like Katniss are sorely needed — and definitely deserving of the hype. It shows us what the world could be like if we don’t change and younger readers will definitely learn a valuable lesson from it.
It’s more than a love story; it’s more than just another young adult novel. The Hunger Games is a delightful and terrifying read from start to finish that will leave you in tears as you reach for the next in the series. It doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s far from over.
There’s nothing quite like it — it’s that good.