“Harry Potter.” “The Lord of the Rings.” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” “Twilight.” The series of novels that have had audiences around the globe in a feeding frenzy for the past decade.
Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” is quickly becoming the newest attention-getting series by earning a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List after its 2008 publication. The trilogy has received so much chatter that the first book, titled “The Hunger Games,” is currently being made into a film to be released in 2012.
“The Hunger Games” is the story of a futuristic society ruled by an all-powerful city called the Capitol. The Capitol rules all of Panem, which is composed of 12 districts. Each year the Capitol calls two teenagers – one boy and one girl – from each district to participate in the Hunger Games. The Games are a televised fight to the death, allowing only one victor each year. The Games serve as a yearly reminder to the districts of the Capitol’s relentless power to prevent an uprising among the people.
The novel follows District 12’s newest player, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, as she fights to save her life and her family while defying the Capitol.
What seems like a sick and twisted joke of a concept actually makes for an enthralling read. Readers will sit on edge as Everdeen faces the gritty realization of the Games and her imminent death, bids a final farewell to her family and then forces herself to participate in an immoral series of murders to stay alive.
Collins paints such a perfectly pitiful society in District 12 that audiences cannot help but feel the punishment of the Capitol for themselves. A land in which mysterious rulers monitor citizens every move is the epitome of fear that writers have been exploring for years now.
George Orwell wrote “1984” in 1948 as a warning of possible future totalitarian governments and their dangers. Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” features a utopian world in which babies are born in laboratories and violence is absent.
Piggybacking off Orwell’s “Big Brother is watching you!” campaign and Huxley’s drug-driven utopias, Collins pushes the idea of a dominant society one step further with the Hunger Games themselves. Violence has been acceptable – even encouraged – in television, movies and video games for years now. The media is constantly thinking of new ways to push limitations, such as the recent torture films “Hostel” and the “Saw” series.
Collins has managed to portray torture violence in a less aggressive light than some of her film counterpart predecessors. Readers see Everdeen’s close relationship to her mother and younger sister as well as a friendship with a fellow hunter before she even enters the arena in which the Games are held.
Collins explores Everdeen’s everyday life and reveals its shocking similarities to normalcy with the one major exception of its government. Everdeen attends school, takes care of her sister, purchases food at the market and watches television. She shares the ideals and values of many in today’s society, but must work harder to stay alive.
“The Hunger Games” are not meant to excite audiences with blood and gore. The real message lies behind the pain and suffering Everdeen endures and the sacrifices she makes for her family, friends and acquaintances to hold onto her morals in a society without morals.
If the United States was Panem and the Olympics were the Hunger Games, what would people be willing to sacrifice to stay alive? Would people be willing to sacrifice their own lives to save the ones they love? Or would greed and selfishness be the ultimate downfall of everything and everyone?
These are the underlying questions Collins poses in “The Hunger Games.” Everdeen addresses several questions in the first installment, but the only way to find out if she, her family and her beloved district stay afloat is to read “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay.” All three installments of the trilogy are available in paperback, hardcover and electronic and run between 300 and 400 pages.
To follow Everdeen’s journey for survival, pick up “The Hunger Games” to be disturbed, perplexed, and surprisingly delighted.
Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected]