It’s never easy knowing what to make of the situation when a book’s cover is emblazened with enthusiastic gratuitous snippets by famous authors. Yes, it should fill you with hope for the story that lies inside but, more often than not, you can’t help feeling the niggling fear that it may be a publicity stunt to boost sales of a mediocre book. Thankfully the praise that covers the jacket (both inside and out) of the first part of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy is well deserved.
Encouraging support from big hitters such as Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer, The Hunger Games tells the tale of Katniss Everdeen and her life in District 12 of Panem. Set in an America far removed from the one we know today, her story is one of poverty and one lacking in hope. With little information given about the terrible events that led to the impoverished lives led by the future Americans, The Hunger Games instead focuses on its title feature.
In order to diffuse any would-be rebellions, the wealthy Capitol enforces a brutish and barbaric sport on the twelve districts of Panem. Each district must willingly provide two children to play in the televised Hunger Games. When the children arrive in the specially devised arena they must fight to the death until one is victorious.
No prizes for guessing who makes up one half of District 12’s offering. In a bid to save her sister from the cruel games, Katniss surrenders herself to the torturous sport and leaves the (questionable) comfort of her home, as well as hunting partner Gale, to discover the distant lights of the Capitol with fellow offering Peeta. The characters author Suzanne Collins creates are believable, with support coming from the alcoholic Haymitch and safety net designer Cinna. Katniss’s love for her sister can be a little over bearing at times but helps root her actions.
The Games themselves are well written and absorbing. Reading like a Big Brother episode gone wrong, we’re treated to bouts of delirium, thirst and near misses whilst several of the deaths (of which there are many) are gruesome and sometimes moving. Well-paced and intriguing, The Hunger Games provides twists and turns that help propel the story. The mystery that surrounds Peeta’s romantic feelings for Katniss provides an interesting sub-plot that helps fuel duller, less action / more berry eating moments.
Set to star Jennifer Lawrence, the 2012 adaptation has a lot to live up to. With two sequels, The Hunger Games ends on a tantalising note that leaves the story open to interpretation…