Sarah's Stars

Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games
Scholastic $19.99  ISBN 978-0-439-02348-1  374 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 15

Still clenching one of Cinna's hands, I walk over and stand on the circular metal plate.

Remember what Haymitch said. Run, find water. The rest will follow," he says. I nod.

"And remember this. I'm not allowed to bet, but if I could, my money would be on you."

"Truly?" I whisper.

"Truly," says Cinna. He leans down and kisses me on the forehead. "Good luck, girl on fire." And then a glass cylinder is lowering around me, breaking our handhold, cutting him off from me. He taps his fingers under his chin. Head high.

I lift my chin and stand as straight as I can. The cylinder begins to rise. For maybe fifteen seconds, I'm in darkness and then I can feel the metal plate pushing me out of the cylinder, into the open air. For a moment, my eyes are dazzled by the bright sunlight and I'm conscious only of a strong wind with the hopeful smell of pine trees.

Then I hear the legendary announcer, Claudius Templesmith, as his voice booms all around me.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games begin!"

Imagine a world where North America lies in ruins. This is where Katniss Everdeen lives, in one of the harsh districts surrounding the nation's shining Capitol. Each district has a specific environment and a job. District Twelve mines coal. Katniss, her sister and her mother live in a quasi-primitive town, where they milk their own goats, forage for berries and shoot their own dinner using bow-and-arrows. Once in a while they have electricity, but usually only when the Hunger Games are broadcast on live TV, all across the nation of Panem. The Hunger Games, a barbaric tradition dating back to when the Capitol took control of what was left of the destroyed America. Every year, two contestants in their teens are selected at random from each district to compete in the arena. It's a free-for-all killing spree and the last survivor standing wins fame and fortune for themselves, as well as their district. The chances of being chosen are fairly slim, but this year Katniss finds herself on her way to the Capitol and her death.

She knows she can't win. Haymitch, who is supposed to mentor her, is an alcoholic who embarrasses himself on live TV. But after managing to tear him away from the bottle with the help of the other District Twelve contestant, Peeta, the baker's son, the three find themselves banding together, instead of taking each other down. Before the games begin, there are parades, interviews and betting. The Hunger Games is broadcast on live TV for the citizens of the nation to bet on, and perhaps sponsor. It's like a reality show with a horrible, fatal twist. But with a few clever tricks from Haymitch and their stylists, Peeta and Katniss are cast as star-crossed lovers. The public loves them and as the games commence, Katniss finds herself unexpectedly allied with Peeta.  To the public, the Hunger Games are a time of festivity and fun, but to the actual contestants, it's terrifying, brutal and bloody. Katniss is forced to run and hide, to fight for survival, to push past her limits if she wants to win and make it back to her family. But Katniss must also make some hard choices because when it all comes down to it, can she really take another life to protect her own?

The concept of The Hunger Games is dark, disturbing and sometimes downright terrifying. The atmosphere is moody, the action is fast and furious and the suspense is frighteningly tense. The reader is taken on a journey, as if they truly are with Katniss in the arena. As she searched for water, I was caught up in the adventure, wondering if she would survive. As she makes her way around the arena, I was breathless with anticipation and the fear of what lurks behind each tree. And, as the number of contestants gradually dwindles, I was cheering for Katniss and Peeta, hoping against hope that both could win. It was a dazzling tour de force, an intoxicating mix of action, horror and romance. A word of caution though: the violence, while never gut wrenching, is intense and frequent. It was a spectacular tale, but also very, very dark.

But, along with all the excitement, Suzanne Collins, author of the popular Gregor the Overlander books, raises some serious questions about life and death. Is our life more important than someone else's? In a desperate situation such as the Hunger Games, is it still wrong to kill someone? How far do we have to go before we cross the line from human beings to monsters? There are all sorts of interesting insights and discussions that could take place because the book and the moral of the story was seamlessly woven into the storyline so the reader doesn't feel as if they're getting preached at. The writing itself was casual and clean and flowed smoothly. It wasn't really poetic or moving or anything, but it conveyed the razzle-dazzle of the Capitol and the heart-stopping adventures with a certain spark that kept me turning the pages. Even the blossoming romance between Peeta and Katniss didn't seem forced or unbelievable. It was tender and touching among the stark and harsh realities of the Games. All the characters managed to develop a little bit, even if they were just side characters. Haymitch was an interesting character and I'd definitely like to see more of Gale, too. I could go on and on about this book but for now, I just have two more words for you.

Sequel.

NOW!

I give Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games five out of five stars.

RATING:

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