The best thing about still being between jobs is getting extra sleep. The second-best thing is having time to read recreationally. I subscribe to a few different newsletters, and I am proud to say that I managed to catch up on every single one of them. I left no interesting article unread. It was glorious and informative.
While I was killing time in North Carolina before my friend Niki’s wedding, I stopped at a Borders to preview books. I started with Practicing Catholic, but it was not captivating in the slightest. I managed to find The Hunger Games in the YA section (it was good to go back to a familiar zone), and based on rave reviews from Sarah and my housemate Mike D, dove in.
I was hooked in two pages. I only finished the first chapter before I had to go back to my hotel before the rehearsal, but it was on.
I must admit that, despite the supposed lack of originality in the basic plot, it is compelling. A fellow ACEr jokingly sent out the trailer of Battle Royale as a nonexample of starting the school year, and though it was awful, I was memorized by the concept (thanks, Wikipedia!) Katniss Everdeen (the names are so silly) is a sixteen-year-old resident of what remains of the United States, twelve districts surrounding the Capitol (roughly in Denver). As punishment for an uprising, one boy and one girl from each district is offered as a tribute to the government-sponsored Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Katniss, from the future Appalachia, finds herself thrown into the games and fighting for her life and her many loves. I love near-future dystopias (The Giver, anyone?), so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed there.
I knew the novel would be YA, but Suzanne Collins’s writing style took the genre to a far different level. I knew how the novel would end (and not just that Katniss would live), but Collins’s writing kept me interested in the details of Katniss’s journey. Using the present tense is rare and difficult (I caught at least one moment that seemed awkward), but it was exactly what the novel needed. I did find it speeding up toward the last few chapters, but in hindsight, any more slowing would have seemed sluggish.
Sarah recently linked a blog post breaking down the reason for the dearth of YA fiction featuring boys. Collins’s novel, though told from the perspective of a girl, is a capital example of that defect: girl books often focus extensively on feelings and relationships. Katniss is such an unusual girl that she seems neither too girly nor unrealistically so.
The Hunger Games is a captivating story. It reminds me of my beloved Harry Potter in that the first book was complete in itself while clearly leaving the door open for future books. I look forward to the remaining two volumes of the series.