Imagine our world, thousands of years from now. The only thing not under water is most of the United States. Now imagine that the government in this world is so afraid of a rebellion that it forces civilian teenagers to partake in a battle to the death competition that is broadcast live on TV and is mandatory viewing for all other citizens. That is the world that Suzanne Collins creates and her best-selling trilogy The Hunger Games.
These impossible-to-put-down books, the finale of which was released last month, follow teenager Katniss Everdeen as she battles to keep herself and, more importantly, those that she loves alive.
The main character just happens to start out at the age of sixteen. But unlike another popular series, Collins presents a female heroine that is strong, determined and not a damsel in distress. In distress for sure, but able to fend for herself.
That isn’t to say that there is no romance in this story, though. Having grown up in the poorest district in the country, District 12, Katniss had to learn to hunt and support her mom and sister by any means. She did this alongside of her lifelong friend, Gale. Their relationship is just about to bloom into something more than friendship when Katniss is ripped from their district and thrown into the Games.
Enter Peeta, the second tribute from 12, who has always been fond of Katniss but she hardly even noticed him. Now, in order to survive the arena, they have to stick together through imminent death. You can see the kind of love triangle that can result as Gale sits at home watching.
While we have seen other love triangles of seemingly the same kind, Collins’s powerhouse writing makes these characters so real and relatable that you almost don’t want anyone to lose out.
While the romance in the storyline is at times cute and light, the rest of the action is anything but. Violent, heart wrenching, blood thirsty: the games tear apart the tributes physically and mentally. As the series goes on and you meet past winners, it’s easy to think maybe they would be better off if they had lost. The horror of the games turns some of their lives around into being alcoholics, morphine addicts or just plain crazy. The past winners play a huge role in the unavoidable rebellion against the Capitol.
What starts out as Katniss’s sacrifice to save her sister, turns into her sacrifices to save a country. She, almost unwillingly, becomes the face of the rebellion: the Mockingjay. With the help of her friends, and sometimes her foes, Katniss has to go head to head against most people’s biggest fears.
While plot and ideas are present in every story, it isn’t worth much if it is written poorly (at least not in the minds of anyone who enjoys real literature). Collins, even though these are her first books, writes with the elegance and grace of a seasoned veteran. Her characters are relatable, if not real. Their situations and reactions are believable.
In the end, this series shows what it seems a lot of pop culture is afraid to anymore. Human nature, now or thousands of years from now, isn’t always good. Fight or flight isn’t always that easy, not when flight isn’t an option. If you’re looking for a book that will keep you enthralled the entire time and leave you thinking long after the final page, then The Hunger Games is for you.