WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
You may want to stand back a bit. I’m about to gush, and you don’t want to get it on you.
First, a quick plot rundown:
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in a post-apocalyptic world (future North America.) The oppressive government holds annual Hunger Games, to demonstrate not even children are beyond the reach of their power.
They choose one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death. It has morphed into a Roman Circus type entertainment for the pampered citizens of the capitol, but something very different to the starving outlying districts.
When her delicate sister is chosen for the games, Katniss steps up to take her place.
This book is so varied, rich, and layered; I don’t know where to start. A good example is genre. I could make a case for it fitting into any of the following:
- Sci Fi / Futuristic
It’s a classic hero’s journey, and I’ll bet if you compared it to Vogler’s steps, it would fall right into line.
But it’s not predictable, shallow, or trite.
Take the main character, Katniss. She’s abrasive, unfeminine, closed off, and fairly untalented. Not your typical heroine. But in typical Save-the-Cat style, we learn early that she is fiercely loyal to the few people she loves. It’s enough to make us follow her through three books – even though we don’t always like her.
It’s YA, but it has deep underlying social lessons:
- Power corrupts – even the most idealistic fall prey
- The balance between social and individual rights
- Social injustice
- The making of martyrs
- The commercial making of a people’s hero – and it’s not always pretty
It’s a typical 3 person triangle love story. But you she weaves the love story between three books so delicately that we’re not sure which man Katniss will end up with until the last few pages. And depending on the plot twist, I rooted for the two suitors equally at different times. Masterful.
But the most powerful writing weapon in Collins’ arsenal is:
Tension and her ability to constantly up the stakes.
What could up the stakes more than surviving the Hunger Games?
A second Hunger Games, with only the past winners competing.
What could up the stakes more than that?
The games becoming a catalyst for a revolution to overthrow the oppressive, corrupt government.
More than that??
The main character becoming sucked into being a ‘brand’ for the revolution, and trying to maintain her morality as she’s sucked into the behind-the-scenes making of a revolution.
Honestly, I can think of only one. The ending isn’t as satisfying as it could have been. We see Katniss years later, happy with her hero – but after three books, the author doesn’t show the completion of her arc as well as I’d like. Instead of a “in her head” view of her satisfaction with her life, we get more of a sweeping view of how the world has changed. And after following this character through three books, it was a slight let-down.
Do yourself a favor and pick up this book, even if you don’t read most of the genres it represents. But do it when you have had lots of sleep, and 12 hours of uninterrupted time – you’re not going to be able to put it down.
Link to The Hunger Games on B&N