Book Review: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

It’s rare that I find a YA book that I consider a literary classic. The last one was Harry Potter. Suzanne Collins‘ “The Hunger Games,” for me, merits that distinction.

Firstly, yes, I know I’m a little behind on discovering this gem. I had heard of it for sometime, and always the feedback was good. Why I hesitated, and why it’s effected me so much, is because first in all things, I am mother. Since I ventured on that path more than fourteen years ago, I’ve developed an inability to read or watch any media in which the suffering of children is vividly told. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle HG, as the protagonist is just a teenager. But I discovered that, while Katniss Everdeen is small in years, she is beyond reproach with wisdom, cunning and intelligence. Katniss’ tragic state of existence, shared with the members of her family and town, don’t allow her to exist in a bubble of extended adolescence the way so many other fictional characters of this genre do. She is raw, fully aware of the inhumanity and deprivation she suffers, and an active and fervent participant in shielding her younger sister, Prim, from suffering the consequences of their reality as much as is proper and possible. Upon her father’s death and her mother’s self-removal of spirit from their lives, it is Katniss whom becomes the soter familias. She hunts, trades, even pokes her mother into caring and living again, to some extent. She keeps them going, and in doing so, earns the respect of the city and love of her sibling.

The Hunger Games themselves are a punishment inflicted by the Capitol, the ruling seat of Panem, the post-apocalyptic country that exists in place of the USA sometime in the distant future. When one of the cities of Panem revolts against the Capitol’s iron-fisted rule, the consequence is taken out on the remaining twelve cities by which an annual tribute requires two children, ages 12-18, to be offered to the Hunger Games. The male and female representatives of each city are pitted against the others in a battle to the death from which only one may emerge victorious. In the annual drawing in Katniss’ city, District 12, Prim is selected as the annual female tribute. Katniss sacrifices herself,taking her sister’s place, and changing her destined path and Panem forever.

I have not done extensive research on the author or yet read the rest of the series. As a student of history, I am intrigued by the author’s use of a similar punishment as given to Carthage by the Romans following the second Punic War. I even see parallels between Katniss and her father and Hannibal Barca, the hero of Carthage, and his father. This parallel made the book all the more an engaging read for a history lover like me.

Highly recommended, and highly enjoyed

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