Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...
The first book of the series introduces Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant heroine of the trilogy, and the cold, authoritative society in which she exists. I liked Katniss as a protagonist. She's a strong, tomboyish sort of figure who is a fighter. Growing up under the rigid control of the Capitol has turned Katniss into a girl who has learned to depend on her own wits and instincts for the survival of herself and her family.
Every year, the Capitol organises the Hunger Games. This is a to-the-death competition in which two "tributes" (one male, one female) from each of the twelve districts under Capitol rule, fight it out in an Arena. The event is broadcast as mandatory viewing to the populous as a reminder of how much they must both rely on and must respect the ruling power.
No child is exempt from having their name put into the drawing for the games, and in places like District 12 where living essentials are scarce, the children can even sign up to put their name in for additional counts in exchange for extra food and supplies. Such is the cruel, calculating omnipotence of the Capitol reign.
When Katniss' young sister, Prim, is drawn to be the female Tribute from 12, Katniss steps forward and volunteers to take her place. At first, Katniss considers it a suicidal sacrifice which she is happy to make, but when Prim begs her to at least try and come home alive, Katniss knows she will have to kill or be killed in the Arena.
One of the most disturbing facets of our heroine's personality, is the fact that killing really doesn't seem to be particularly difficult for her. I found this aspect of her difficult to warm to. Yes, she has learned to hunt in order to be the provider for her family, but there is little refection on what a huge leap there is between snaring a rabbit or shooting a stag, in comparison with taking the life of another person. As the books progress, Katniss is forced to kill more and more people. Eventually (though not in this text), her kill-count catches up with her while she sleeps and we start to see the scars that her years of forced-brutality leave upon her.
Entering the Arena with Katniss is Peeta, a boy who once saved her life through an act of selfless generosity in a world where such kindness is rare. Peeta is a far more likeable character than Katniss at times. As well as being the least selfish of the characters, he is also warmer, cleverer and wilier. It is his wisdom which prompts his pre-game strategies which he hopes will keep both himself and Katniss alive. I don't want to get overly-spoilerific, so I won't say more.
What I will say is that this is a book which will appeal to both female and male readers. There is both the brutality involved in the Games, and a complicated love-triangle (between Katniss, her best friend Gale, and Peeta) which begins in this book and which is sustained well throughout the series. It's not a soppy sort of romance, as such a thing would be incongruous within the austere darkness of war and oppression, but it is touching.
I loved the first book in this trilogy. In The Hunger Games, a cold and bitter world is created through cleverly spartan prose. Katniss' voice is captured in a first-person narrative which will have you both empathising with her and wanting to throttle her on occasion!
The key conflict of this first instalment comes from the perils of the Games. But a bigger enemy lurks beyond the Arena: The Capitol and its ruler, President Snow. This threat, which remains unconquered and even barely touched upon in book one, will ensure that you reach out for book two as soon as you can!show more