If you are still in high school, chances are you've heard of this new series. Now, while I like to impress my fellow English students with big thick novels that were published when men still wore leggings, and flogging was an acceptable means of justice, I do love a good old adventure novel.
From the inner flap:
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The capitol is hard and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
After a lot of prodding from a friend to read the book, I finally gave in….
I read it in one night.
A feat I have not achieved since reading the last Harry Potter book.
The Hunger Games has something to offer everyone. Teenage readers can appreciate the action, adventure and romance. However, older readers will enjoy the conflicted and damaged characters in the novel, the subtle (and, admittedly, obvious) overtones of disestablishmentarianism, references to present day land occupation and echoes of war crimes.
Katniss is a rare breed of heroine in today's teen literature. She isn't pretty, graceful or feminine or perfect. She doesn't spend too much time mooning over men, either. She is gritty, determined and is often thrown into incredibly complex and interesting human and ethical dilemmas to achieve her goals. She is by no stretch of the imagination a good character, nor is she a bad character. She makes plenty of mistakes, but as readers you appreciate them. In Katniss we see, not ourselves, but an allegory for the lengths humanity will go to when all is taken away from them. I loved her as a character, though at times her narrative felt heavy she always progressed the story on with a realistic fervour.
The book is very much a social and political commentary packaged for teenagers. The people of the Capitol are extremely wealthy, arrogant and ignorant. However, the people who live in the outlying districts are starving, poor and are forced to work for goods that support residents of the Capitol's lifestyle. It's an extreme and localized parallel of what we experience in the world today, what with huge poverty gaps and extreme poverty prevalent today.
Collins stands out from her lambasted contemporaries, she has a strong voice and isn't afraid to deal with gritty issues that some of us find disturbing. Young people killing each other, extreme hunger and loss of humanity to just name a few. From an Islamic perspective, this book has a lot of merit for young readers. It teaches the basics of war and poverty, the problem with corporations and nuclear warfare in a way that both alienates and familiarizes the reader. It's an excellent crash course in world politics. As young Muslims, it’s incredibly important to be aware and gain an understanding and empathize with world issues. We need to strive to make the world a better place, and the starting point of spurring change is to create empathy for our fellow human being.
I'm glad that in an era where Twilight mania has gripped the nation, a book like this is capturing the minds of thousands of young people. While I do strongly recommend this book, I wouldn't recommend it for those of you who dislike reading about gory violence and murder.
P.S. have any books you'd like me to review? Email me!