Reading For Pleasure – The Hunger Games
The book that I chose to read was ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games is a dystopian, science-fiction novel mainly aimed at teenagers, or – to put in publishing terms – a book that belongs to the Young Adult genre. There are many cases of books meant for younger audiences enjoying immense success among all age-groups; The Hunger Games holds that distinction. I believe it is one of those rare gems in the young adult genre that launches countless imitations of itself.
The Hunger Games tells the story of a teenage girl named Katniss Everdeen, struggling to survive with her mother and sister. She is made into a pawn of the state against her will and is forced to team up with Peeta Mellark, a boy from her home-town in order to stay alive. She goes on to turn the situation in her favour and essentially defeat the state.
Katniss, her sister Prim and their mother, live in Panem, a barbaric dystopian state, where an annual bloodsport called The Hunger Games is held to assert the dominance of the Capitol (the wealthy, upper-class section of the nation) over its 12 districts which are under its rule. Two tributes – a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18 – from each district either volunteer or are chosen by the Capitol. The tributes are then brought to the Capitol where they all fight to the death on live television for the whole nation to see, till all but one remain. The lone Victor then enjoys the luxury and the good graces of the Capitol for the remainder of their life.
The Hunger Games is truly memorable for countless reasons. The chief of them being the fact that the protagonist is a seemingly powerless teenage girl, who goes on to twist the arm of a nation state and symbolically defeat a dictatorship with the little power that she figured out she wielded. Katniss is the much needed representation that young girls look for while reading books. She is battling with the agony of losing her father, while also filling in for her grief-struck mother and taking care of her sister. The subtext is that she is alone in a world that is trying to kill her and many teenagers feel the same way. Suzanne Collins has done a great job of providing positive representation for teenagers through a character like Katniss.
Some other reasons that make this book so enjoyable are the incredible world-building and great characterisation. The Hunger Games also deals with complex subject matter through relatively easy to understand terms and themes. The author indirectly highlights the danger of state-controlled media and unchecked power in the hands of the government. It seems almost prophetic that Collins chose to write something of that degree given the state of the world today.
Establishing a dystopian dictatorship and having the protagonist challenge the rules of the world in a book meant for teenagers is not an easy task. So is constructing a well-written, strong, independent female character in a world that is content with treating female characters as nothing more than love-interests. Suzanne Collins deserves all the credit that is due to her. My heart will always be in search of another Katniss-like character.