Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place. (Amazon synopsis)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was in my reading list on amazon for what felt like forever but I hardly even gave it a chance because I saw someone had reviewed it as a "teen novel". At 23 I feel I'm too old to be reading anything classified as "Young Adult Fiction" because it makes me think of creatures sparkling in the sun (you know what I mean) and any other novels jumping on the supernatural genre bandwagon. It also depresses me a little to read about 17 year olds who do nothing but sit around brooding for most of their lives as they are wont to do in many best selling teen novels of the last decade. I'm not criticising such fiction whatsoever - I'm sure I would have loved such novels as a teen myself. But what I mean is, as I get older I find myself reaching for more mature reading material. Thus, when I saw someone label this novel under the "teen" banner, I inwardly cringed and kept my distance.
Once I got my Kindle I decided enough was enough and purchased it, just to see what all the fuss was. This was last year before I knew that any film was in production. I expected whiny teenagers, cheesy forbidden love stories, a predictable storyline and all else that I unconsciously associate with YA books. Then the trailer was released on youtube and hey presto, I was sorely disappointed and decided I didn't want to give the novel a read after all. It's not that the movie trailer is bad at all, it's just that it reinforced my thinking that this novel was one aimed at a younger readership than myself.
Anyhoo, after this long convoluted intro (do I ever write anything to-the-point?) I ran out of things to read on my kindle this week and had an hour long journey home from work and gave it a go, with the absolute lowest of expectations. And boy did I misjudge this novel completely.
There is no way one could simply define this book as simply "a good teen read". Yes it has all the elements of a classic YA read - teenager characters (obviously), an interwoven love story, and some gory fighting. But it also has so much more than that, enough to keep older readers gripped to every last word.
Firstly, the characters are described in such a way that really bring them to life. They are likeable but flawed, making them easily relate-able. I'm a sucker for old classic novels and plays because I feel like I really get to know the characters and a lot of modern fiction fails to give characters enough depth to make them realistic. The Hunger Games didn't have this problem though. Although the key protagonist is sullen a lot of the time, her maturity makes her a really appealing character. And the host of other strange, eccentric and funny characters just give the novel a well-rounded feel.
It's been described as having a futuristic sci-fi plot but I'm not sure if that phrase really fits. When I think of sci-fi I think of Star Trek and Doctor Who and this novel is nothing like those (except for little mentions of things like hovercrafts and surrealistic mod cons). I also don't think it could be described as being fantasy fiction completely - it's not about magic and wizards or anything (but the mention of hybrid creatures does give it a fantasy-esque feel). There's also a running romantic subplot throughout. Consequently I'd say it's one of those novels that could fit into a lot of different genres and would thus appeal to a wide audience. There are just so many different facets to this novel that there's something in there for everyone.
It was truly one of those un-put-downable novels and I finished it in lightning speed. Once done I went and watched the trailer for the film again and actually, I think it looks pretty true to the novel. I'm no longer put off by the age of the characters (it's no big deal anyway, especially when two of the main actors in the film are in their 20s, which makes me not feel so grannified, haha. Casting is also excellent). There's no way it'll be even a tenth as good as the novel but knowing the storyline now, I know it'll still be epic viewing.
I can't rave about this novel enough.
And just in case you haven't seen it yet: