Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
My usual instructions from the publisher of the Coastal Breeze are that I am to choose books for review that have been written in the past year or so. I explained to them that though these three books are all older than that, they are still very much in the public’s mind. When I went to the library to get a copy of the first of the series I was number 144 in line waiting for it to be returned. After hearing this they agreed to make an exception.
You have no idea how much I have resisted reading these three books. Consider that people have been trying to get me to do so for four years. To start with, they are written for young people, ages 13 and up. (I haven’t even read the Harry Potter books!) And they are futuristic and about war and killing and sounded like something from Lord of the Flies. Not a single thing I had heard about them attracted me. But then I kept hearing from my adult friends that they had read The Hunger Games and liked it. And then I saw that, week after week, all three of the books were on the top ten best sellers’ list. Then I read that a movie had been made of the first of the series. Then, even my librarian told me that I should read them. She explained that they are the 1984 of today. So what’s a reviewer to do?
I succumbed and darned if they weren’t all right. Yes, they are, indeed, all that I feared, but written in a manner that I couldn’t put down. I stayed up until two in the morning to see what would happen next in Catching Fire. So, you see, I was hooked. If you decide to jump in and join the crowd, I strongly suggest reading them in their proper order or you will be completely lost. Each book builds on the prior one and characters and events will be meaningless without the proper foundation of what has already taken place. Even with that knowledge there will be times when you may be confused, but keep on reading and it will either make sense and you will have an “aha” moment or you will just accept what is happening at face value and read on anyway. At least that is what I did and it seemed to work pretty well for me. There are still some parts that I really could not explain to you, but there was enough going on to keep me glued to the pages and I just shrugged my shoulders and read on.
One of my friends told me that she couldn’t cope with the fact that this new version of our country was without our Constitution or the Bill of Rights, but that is the whole point of these stories. What happens when one group of people takes over and completely eliminates the rights and privileges of all the rest of the people in the country? Utter chaos and deprivation for those not part of the chosen few. We do not know what year this is occurring, but the implication is that this is a post apocalyptic world that has the country divided up into 12 districts and The Capital in the State of Panem. The 12 districts are limited to what each can produce, such as agriculture, coal, nuclear products, etc. and there is no contact with one another.
The title of the first book comes from the fact that each year the names of all the citizens from the ages of 12 to 18 are made available for a drawing, called the Reaping. One boy and one girl is chosen from each district to participate in an event, The Hunger Games, where they are transported to an arena and told they must kill each other until only one person is left alive. This arena is not what you usually think of, but, instead, an area that has been made inescapable in some way and may be a jungle, a desert or perhaps a land that is freezing cold, or even a combination of these at various times. The participants have some weapons available to them for a brief period at the beginning of the event, but may easily be killed while trying to acquire these weapons.
The Capital dwellers watch all that is going on and televise it to the masses. The Capital also has the ability to make unexpected events happen to make things “more interesting,” such as a flood, a volcanic eruption, acid rain, poisonous plants, attacking animals, lightning, etc. Each time a person is killed a cannon goes off and each night those who have been killed have their images appear in the sky overhead. It all sounds mighty harrowing and, indeed, it is. The author has made sure we know many of the young people involved, so we are cheering for some and hoping for the undoi n g of others. It is really hard to describe all that is happening but I can assure you that it is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. Early in the first book, we are introduced to the main characters, Katniss Everdeen, who appears to be cold and calculating, but readers come to love her very much, her close friend Gale, a boy, and Peeta, another boy who, unknown to Katness, is in love with her. Their lives become closely ent w i n e d . By the time that I read Mockingjay, I had begun to think of Katniss as the “Joan of Arc” of her times, without the divine guidance.
I must stress again that each of these books builds upon the earlier one and it is important to read them in order. We are often told, “this is a book you can really sink your teeth into,” but one reviewer stated more clearly. “What Collins has done here is set up a series that will sink its teeth into readers,” and that really says it all.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.