Friday, March 9, 2012

Recommendation: The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I finally, finally succumbed to all the hype and read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy, and now I cannot stop raving about it.  These books are the most original and arresting things I have read since Harry Potter.  In lieu of a traditional review, I am going to list a few reasons why you should read these books (if you haven't already) or re-read them (because they are just that damn good).

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen is a survivor.  Her father died in a tragic coal mining accident, leaving her mother incapacitated and Katniss the sole provider for her family, including younger sister Prim.  Life is hard in District 12, but Katniss has Gale and hunting to ground the routine of her days.  She hadn't thought twice about Peeta, the baker's son, since their chance encounter after her father's death, nor had she seriously considered acting on the discussions of rebellion against the Capital she and Gale shared in the safety of the woods.  It was all just talk until the Games arrived. 

1. Collins' prose is exquisite.  She evokes clear and vivid images with her words - some desolate - like a bombed-out district, some beautiful - like Cierra's fashion designs - and some terrifying - like the underground system of the Capital.

2. The novels house a real-life, honest-to-goodness love triangle.  The will they/won't they romance between Katniss and Peeta/Gale is not like many YA love triangles of today born of passion at a split-second glance.  (For a thoughtful account on the prevalence of love triangles in YA lit today see The Broke and the Bookish.)  Instead, the characters' love grows slowly based on a series of interactions and shared sympathies.  The required amount of skepticism is thrown on each character's intentions, but no one can doubt the sincerity of Gale and Peeta's love for Katniss nor hers for the two men.

3. The love triangle is not at the center of the series.  (See 5.)

4. Collins is adept at creating and sustaining suspense through original action.  Every time the characters entered the arena, I was alternately enthralled and disturbed by the events that took place, but I was always, always surprised.

5. Overall the trilogy is a meditation on human suffering and empathy.  The Hunger Games would make an excellent addition to any ethics course.  They offer a very touching yet disturbing portrait of humans at their very best and their very worst.   

Best matched with fans of dystopia or anyone looking for a smart, original crossover (appealing to both YA and adult audiences) read.

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