Carpe Librum: ‘The Hunger Games’

"The Hunger Games" cover. Photo courtesy of mamapop.com

I did not want to read this book.

No. I mean I really didn’t want to read this book.

Not out of some misplaced sense of, I don’t know, coolness—I’m not saying that.

I just did not want to read “The Hunger Games.”

I thought it was just another dystopian novel whose plot fell somewhere between “The Most Dangerous Game” and a Roman gladiatorial fight. It was a sickening tale about children released into an arena with one goal: survive.

Survive at any cost.

And what kind of sick, twisted person wants to read about that? Well, I wasn’t going to be one of them. Plus, I’d read “1984” and had enough of powerful central governments and the same sad people in the same drab clothes.

But because there was a movie coming out, and because there was so much hype, I figured those of you out there like me might want to know if it’s worth it.

And it was! I was really very pleasantly (well, if you could call it pleasantly) surprised by this book.

It centers around Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12 of Panem. Panem is made up of the Capitol, in the Rockies, and 12 poorer surrounding districts.

District 12 used to be called Appalachia—and is known for its coal mines.

Every year, the districts are required to put forth one boy and one girl, each between the ages of 12 and 18, for the Hunger Games. The whole competition is an annual punishment that the Capital enforced after District 13 started a rebellion. As a result,  District 13 is gone—bombed to oblivion—and the remaining districts have a lottery to see which children will be offered as “tributes.”

When Katniss’ little sister, Prim, is called, Katniss knows what she has to do—she volunteers to take her place. She knows it could mean death, but she also knows that to stand by is to be her sister’s executioner.

The male tribute for District 12 is Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son. We find out in the course of the book that, though the two were never really friends, they have had a connection since their childhood.

After the sad scenes in which they have to say goodbye to their families, the two are ushered onto a plush train to the Capital, and their whole worlds begin to change.

Katniss and Peeta are exposed to opulence they have never even dreamed of in their poor, rural district. It is overwhelming; as are the people they meet. In the end, though, there are still the Games, and all the pampering and training have led them to the arena, to the killing field.

Though “The Hunger Games” is a fairly short book (374 pages), the chapters are full of information and plot I could hardly begin to describe in this short article. The book’s author, Suzanne Collins, does a fantastic job of being sure the story never lags but that the reader is never lost.

Whenever I got past the idea that the kids were killing each other for sport and for the entertainment of Panem, I was completely caught up.

It is nearly impossible to stop reading; I read the whole book in a few hours just to find out what happened next! I’m sure that your experience will be similar, so I am giving this book my full recommendation.

I can’t wait to see the movie.

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