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July 1, 2011

Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy (no spoilers)

Posted by on Jul 1, 2011
The Hunger Games

Kids killing kids.  Kids killing kids while being filmed.  Kids killing kids, being filmed, and being broadcast live across an entire nation, where every citizen is forced to watch on pain of death.  Welcome to the nation of Panem, which rose from the ashes of what was once North America and gives us the willies the same way George Orwell’s Oceania did in 1984.  In this fast paced and hip new trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes readers on a roller-coaster journey of love, pain, murder, betrayal, insanity, and revolution.

Collins paints a futuristic human society with backwards tendencies.  Panem, run by The Capitol, is constructed of 12 districts.  There used to be 13, but the last district was brutally destroyed in the revolution as a warning to all citizens.  And to further discourage future rebellion, The Capitol annually hosts its grizzly Hunger Games.  Every year, each district is forced to produce two tributes – a boy and girl aged 12 to 18 – who will be forced to fight to the death in the arena.  After The Reapings, (the tribute selection ceremonies) each tribute joins his/her 23 comrades for brief preparations before all but one of them are sent to their deaths.  Watching these games is mandatory for all citizens, but is truly a pleasurable and highly anticipated event for citizens residing in The Capitol itself.  The winner, besides getting to stay alive, earns food and luxury (relatively speaking) for life, and a year of better provisions for their entire district – hence the name Hunger Games.  And so it begins.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games. Looking forward to see how they do some of the costumes

Readers see Panem through the eyes of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a fiery and angsty youth from district 12.  Katniss, a hardheaded and tough specimen, spends her time bow hunting in the woods outside her district with her friend Gale in order to provide for her mother and 12-year-old sister, Prim.  Katniss is seen as a calculating and commanding social outsider who has no idea how much she affects those around her.  Her seclusion from social interaction is a choice – her passion is for her family – her anger is trained on injustice.  Yet beneath her rough exterior dwells a scared 16-year-old girl who is only trying to do what is right, whatever that may be.  As District 12′s Reaping for the 74th Hunger Games creeps closer, the Everdeens begin to accept their stark reality; this year, no one is safe.

I found the first book to be the clear star of the three.  Each one has its own separate tone and focus, adding extreme variety within the relatively short series.  The already dark premise becomes darker as inward struggles are forced to the exterior, characters are plagued with tribulation and tragedy, and what once appeared solid is suddenly unstable.

Collins’ series is being sent to the silver screen as we speak, and will take shape as a series of 4 (yup, not 3) films.  In what looks to be a brilliant casting decision, Katniss will be played by Jennifer Lawrence, who starred as Raven in X-Men: First Class.  The First movie, The Hunger Games, is set to release March, 2012.