Monday, August 8, 2016

Review - The Hunger Games

Original Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games, #1
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: September 14th 2008

Publisher: Scholastic Press
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

"I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games" (Peeta Mellark)

First of all, I have to say that I never thought I would read this book. Ever. I came to know it a few years ago and upon seeing it had such a big fandom, and such fame, I ignored it, because I tend to stay away from stories when they are so... massive. And even more when they present a dystopian society, because it's just not my thing. But definitely, I have to take back my words. This book blew me away, in a way I never thought it could. I started reading it after watching the movie, expecting... well, what we all expect. A movie made for the requests of the audience, with very little respect (or none at all) for the original story told in the book. I was gladly proved wrong. The movie follows the book in every little detail, and it's worth the watch, something we don't always find in adaptations. In this case, the story deserves all the fame it has, and all the fuss around it. The way it is told made me understand why it was turned into a movie, because it is a big, delicious piece of candy that filmmakers just couldn’t resist. 

In despite of knowing what was going to happen, this book hooked me from page one, it was impossible to put down, and when I did, I wanted to go back to it. I started reading, and when I looked at the clock, I realized I had been reading for four or five hours straight. This book promises to grab you and never let go. The first-person, present narrative makes it a lot more original, because you go with Katniss step by step, she doesn't know what will happen, and neither you do. You walk with her through District 12, the Capitol and the arena, and learn about them through her eyes, and love and hate with her. 

After reading this, I started seeing the world around me differently. The criticism to the way the rich and powerful seek entertainment in a totalitarian society, with the [bloody] death of those under its thumb, who are already dying of starvation, or in accidents, working for the Capitol without receiving anything in return, apart from a few things that are barely enough to survive, in a world marked by injustice, whose realities the Capitol chooses to ignore, gave me a lot to think. It’s a world in which the pillars of society are oppression, fear, and back-breaking work, and the Hunger Games are entertainment for the rich, and a punishment for the poor. In this world lives Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl who, despite her age, has become the mother and supporter of her family, doing what her own mother was incapable of, going hunting so her family could eat. She’s older than her age, and every time she speaks, you can see it. She’s not the typical leading girl of this kind of stories, but a woman who rightfully earns the word “heroine”; she had to grow up quickly so that her family could survive, even risking her own life, asking for food, knowing that her name was being put for the Reaping. Her concerns are not those of a normal teenage girl, there’s no silly romance or triangle, and it makes the story all the more unique.

The parade scene in the Capitol simply says it all. Those who handle the power and the money spare no expense when it comes to entertainment, even when the cost of it is the lives of those so called tributes. They promise, through the Games, an exaltation that means nothing. There’s no glory on winning the games, because the price is too high. I was shocked when I learned that the tributes from District 1 and 2 –people like Cato, Clove, Glimmer, and Marvel– were volunteers, and were prepared their whole lives for the Hunger Games. Because I realised they actually prepare children to kill other people. Being chosen at the Reaping is a death sentence only being willing to kill can be eluded, and there’s no possible bonds of friendship between the tributes, because, once they go into the arena, they all turn into deadly enemies (Rue and Katniss are the exception to the rule). The victors may win, but their lives end up destroyed, by trauma, nightmares, guilt… All for the entertainment of those who, safe in their Capitol houses, with all the imaginable food and eccentric comforts, couldn’t, under any circumstances, know the starvation and hardships lived in the arena, and in the Districts, and keep going with their lives when people are actually dying for their fun. 

The tributes are treated like heroes, dressed with the best garments, and treated like royalty in those four few days before they send them to the slaughter. And then, the Hunger Games begin. Katniss is a natural survivor; life has taught her to rely on her wits and skills to survive and keep her family alive; she knows how to handle herself in the arena. It is chilling how at some point (you can't say exactly when, but it happens), it is like Katniss forgets where she is, and internalizes the arena; she passes from prey to huntress, and slowly starts to spiral into the madness brought by the urge of survival, living in constant fear, but at the same time, trying to stay alive. However, Peeta's story is different; and that’s what I like about the love story in this book. It’s not your typical teen romance. Peeta’s ability with words and tendency to be adorable for the audience, crafts a romance that, ultimately, is what ends up saving their lives, and becomes the only hold to power left for the Capitol. Peeta is the only one who thinks about the real consequence of the Games for the Victors, because even winning is being doomed. Doomed to not really being the owner of your own life. Even when he knows he couldn’t escape it, he’s determined to be himself until the last minute, and not to let the Capitol use him as a chess piece they can move as they please. That is his rebellion, his statement that no one can use him just like that, even when he knows that if he doesn’t kill, he’ll die sooner. And I love him for that. Peeta is the most sensible character, and unlike Katniss, he never had to struggle so much to survive, so these Games are twice as difficult for him. Which makes the scene with the berries a lot more... amazing, because it means "No matter what, you don't owe me. It's my life and you don't get to decide when I have to live or die".

In short, I loved this book, and I recommended to everyone who hasn’t read it. Do not be blinded by the success of the movie, and give it a chance. Look at me! I was never going to read this in my life, and when I did, I ended up loving it. 

Only one more thing:

" ...Happy Hunger Games...! ... And may the odds be forever in your favor...! "

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