Last year, many people including bloggers were talking about Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This year, people will be talking about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Both books are the first instalment in a trilogy. The Hunger Gamesis a science fiction book written for teenagers, but adults including myself, are gobbling up the book. It’s a page turner.
I liked the sixteen-year-old protagonist Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games a lot better than I liked Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo even though I enjoyed the trilogy and have seen the movies.
North America is no more!
It’s been destroyed by an apocalypse of sorts, and now the country Panem is in its location. Panem is divided into districts, and in a central city called the Capitol, a powerful government rules. Each year, the government hosts The Hunger Games, a televised event where a boy and girl from each of the twelve districts compete in a blood sport where only one of the 24 contestants survives. It’s a brutal sport where you kill or be killed.
People are gathered to see which boy and girl will be sent to compete in The Hunger Games in the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen is sure that her little sister Prim is safe, after all she has only one entry. Primrose Everdeen’s name is chosen, and while she is walking up to the stage in a daze, her older sister shouts out that she will take her sister’s place. She loves her sister unconditionally and knows that 12-year old Prim will never survive the competition. In fact, the last time that anyone from District 12 won was three decades earlier.
The boy and girl from District 12 are usually among the first tributes (contestants) to die. Most of the people from District 12 are grossly underweight because they never have enough food to eat.
They finally choose the boy tribute from District 12 and it’s Peeta Mellark, a baker’s son. Five years earlier Katniss’ father died in a mining accident and her mother withdrew into herself. At age 11, Katniss had to take control and find a way to feed her family. One day she was weak and hungry, and Peeta burnt a loaf of bread so that he could give it to Katniss. His mother beat him for burning the bread because now they couldn’t sell it. When Peeta’s mother is not looking, he throws the burnt loaf of bread in Katniss’ direction. She was very grateful for the bread, but she also felt badly because she felt like she owed Peeta, and she never repaid the debt.
Katniss and Peeta get the opportunity to say goodbye to their family and friends because they have to leave District 12 in the next few hours. The Hunger Games is mostly about the preparation for the game and the actual competition. I have used five great ideas to discuss the novel.
Five Great Ideas
The difficulties in our lives are often disguised opportunities: When Katniss’ father died, her mother was so distraught that she mentally left her two daughters, seven and 11 years old at the time. Eleven year old Katniss had to grow up very quickly and become the breadwinner for the family. Her father often took her hunting, which was illegal, but those in charge looked the other way because they benefitted. They bought the meat for themselves. Katniss was able to use this skill to feed her family. Her father taught her to use a bow and arrow, and she became very skilled at it, which allowed her to survive The Hunger Games.
Working together each of us achieves more: In the early stages of the game, the more affluent tributes formed alliances to quickly eliminate tributes from the poorer Districts. After they eliminated the less skilled and weaker tributes who were often those from the poorer Districts, they would start eliminating each other. Katniss formed an alliance with Rue who was also from one of the poor Districts because Rue reminded her of Prim. It was an alliance which helped both until Rue was killed by a spear. Rue was from an agricultural district so she knew plants and was able to apply a poultice to the wasp sting to pull out the poison. Katniss was grateful for this. Rue also knew a lot about edible berries and grains. Katniss was able to trap and kill game for them to survive on. Before Katniss left to compete in the game, she teamed up with Gale to hunt and gather food for both their families. At the end of the day, they would split the food. They made good partners because they watched each other’s back and Gale taught her how to trap animals.
Focus on your strengths: Katniss slept in the trees during the nights to protect her from animals and the other tributes. She was trapped in the tree, as the more privileged tributes waited for her below because they wanted to eliminate her. In the practice session before the actual competition, she received the highest score and they hated her for that. She was from the lowly District 12, so they didn’t expect much from her. Before forming the alliance with Rue, the little girl pointed out the wasp nest. Katniss knew that if she could get to the nest and throw it in the direction of the other tributes she would be safe for another day. Stings from that specie of wasps were deadly. With great care, Katniss used her knife to carefully saw away at the tree branch where the wasp nest was located. The nest fell down and attacked everyone in sight including Katniss. Fortunately for her, she knew to take out the sting which saved her life. Two of the tributes who were part the alliance died from the wasp bites. The others who were also stung raced to the lake for relief. With the after effects of the sting they were out for a couple of days. In addition, Katniss’s mother was an apothecary so she had a book on healing plants, which proved useful knowledge for her. Katniss was also a survivor and knew how to hunt, so that gave her an advantage over the more affluent tributes.
Formulate a plan on how to approach a task: Tributes from the more affluent Districts usually won The Hunger Games competition because they were stronger and bigger. They didn’t know what it felt like to be hunger, to go to bed without supper. They were well fed, and the few times they lost The Hunger Games their food was taken away from them. When the competition begins and they form alliance, they secure all the food for themselves to starve the other tributes. Katniss knew that for her to have any chance of surviving she had to take away their food to make then vulnerable. They didn’t know how to hunt for food. When these tributes left to hunt the other tributes, they left one person – someone from one of a less affluent District – behind to guard the food. Katniss asked herself why? Why would they align themselves with someone poor, and why would they only need one person to guard all that food. Each District specializes in certain industries, but the government likes to control information so that each District does not know much about each other. Katniss thinks about what she knows about the District where the boy who is guarding the food is from and remembers that his District produces explosives and realizes that they are using land mines to guard their food. She carefully formulates a plan and uses three of her arrows to blow up their food source.
Be likable: Katniss had to grow up too quickly because her family’s survival was in her hand. Besides having Gale, she believed that she had to rely on herself. At the games, before the human hunt begins, tributes are interviewed, and there is also a parade. During that time, tributes have to win over the audience to get sponsorships, so they have to be likable and memorable. Sponsorships are critical because if a tribute gets into difficulty, their sponsors send them exactly what they need. When the interviewee asks Peeta (the male tribute from District 12 where Katniss is from), about his girlfriend he says he doesn’t have one. But when the interviewer persists, Peeta talks of a girl that he really likes, but she doesn’t pay much attention to him. The interviewer tells him he has to win so he can return to District 12 and let her know. Peeta laments and says it’s impossible because the girl he likes came with him. Everyone realizes that he is speaking about Katniss and the camera focuses on her. Peeta is likable and he wins over the audience. He is facing a predicament because their is only one winner, and the audience feels his pain.
In the middle of the games, the Gamekeepers change the rule so that at the end if there are two people from the same District, both will be winners so they won’t have to kill each other. By the time the rule changes it affects only two Districts. But at the end, when Peeta and Katniss are left standing, the Gamekeepers reverse the rule change and now Katniss and Peeta have to battle each other. They instead decide to pull a Romeo and Juliet, by placing some poisonous berries in their mouth, which was Katniss’s idea. The Gamekeepers once again change their minds, so the two teenagers spit out the deadly berries.
The government is not pleased because they are made to look very stupid. Katniss and Peeta must prove that they are really love struck. The Hunger Games – Library Edition is an excellent book which I highly recommend. I finished reading the first book in no time and I plan to read the other two books in the series – Catching Fire and Mockingjay. The Hunger Games is full of action and you see good and bad strategies unfolding. You see people thinking, planning and questioning things. This book may have been written for young adults, but it’s a great read for adults as well.
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- Book Review: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
- New ‘The Hunger Games’ Trailer: Katniss Everdeen’s Journey (screenrant.com)
- ‘Hunger Games’ Trailer: Katniss Everdeen, The Girl Who Was On Fire, Enters The Capitol (news.moviefone.com)