book review: The Hunger Games trilogy

So Colin, being Colin, bought everybody books for Christmas. (Mine was a stocking stuffer, as the big present was sitting under the tree, complete with a cautionary note . . . a tale for another time, perhaps.) He said that the entire publishing world seemed to be geeking out over The Hunger Games, and since he didn't think he wanted to read it, he thought I might.

It looked interesting, and when we went to Phoenix that evening to have Christmas with his family, I packed it.

I picked it up Sunday morning and basically only put it down when I absolutely had to, and didn't during other times when I probably should have. It's not a terribly original premise: it's a post-apocalyptic former United States, with 12 districts and the Capitol. Every year, as restitution for a former uprising, each district draws a male and female tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 for the Hunger Games, a Battle Royale-style reality television event where they fight each other to the death. Our heroine, of course, ends up participating.

I finished the first book that day. On Monday, back in Tucson, I checked the public library reservations on the second and third: 173 and 242 holds, respectively. I dropped by the library anyway, to pick up something else, and just happened to see Mockingjay (no. 3) on display in the very front. It was an express copy, and not subject to the holds, so I had lucked out; I went and purchased Catching Fire that night at Borders so I could read them in order and as quickly as possible. In the second she revisits the games, and in the third becomes part of a growing resistance against the current government.

What sets the trilogy apart from most of the young adult frippery that's glutting the market is the quality of Suzanne Collins' writing. The story is intense, and, especially in the third, quite violent; she somehow manages to be descriptive but not gory. The first-person present tense works especially well for her, and except for the inescapably obvious survival of the heroine, she manages to throw twists and turns into the plot that I doubt even the most prescient of readers could divine. Her characters are pleasingly three-dimensional, and the suspense doesn't overpower the humanity of message--which, incidentally, she doesn't beat you over the head with as so many others would be tempted to.

Now, I wouldn't put them on the level of The Giver or the Harry Potter series (both of which I would deign to call literature), but The Hunger Games trilogy comes quite close. I read a book a day for three days, which should give you some idea of their appeal--I haven't been that devoted to a book in years--and everyone I've talked to has had a similarly difficult time putting them down.

Definitely give them a look, but I wouldn't recommend starting them unless you have all three available and enough time that you won't be neglecting things like socializing with rarely-seen extended family.

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