Where Readers & Writers Connect
by Sheila Hollinghead
For those more out of the loop than I am, the basic story is this: In the distant future, the nation of Panem has risen from the ashes of North America. Once, twelve (originally thirteen) outlying districts went to war against the Capitol. Now, to show their dominance, the Capitol demands each district send one boy and one girl to participate in the televised “Hunger Games,” a show very similar to some of our current reality shows. The Capitol citizenry’s voracious appetite for entertainment results in increasingly elaborate games that end in death for all but one of the participants.
In the year the book takes place, Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister is chosen from District Twelve. Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place. The unlucky boy is the baker’s son, Peeta, who is secretly in love with Katniss.
At its core, this storyline is a familiar one–a seemingly weak person prevails against overwhelming odds. We’ve seen this in the story of David and Goliath, in the Roman myths, and, more recently, in many movies such as Rocky, Karate Kid, and Star Wars.
I anticipated a great read from all the hype, yet, surprisingly, I read almost a third of the book before becoming invested in the story. Perhaps that was due to the use of present tense. At times, the choice of tense forced awkward sentence structure that pulled me out of the story.
And, although I am not a big fan of flowery descriptions, the sparseness of details often left me ungrounded. Perhaps that was done deliberately to mimic how Katniss must have felt in the game. Nevertheless, since Collins was building a new world for us, I would have appreciated more detail.
Another problem was the lack of character development among the minor characters. Gale, Prim, the mother, and others were only shadowy figures. And, again, could this have been something Collins chose to do, to demonstrate how Katniss feared to love others and never allowed herself to really know the other characters? However, Katniss and Peeta are fully fleshed out and are relatable.
The world building was interesting. This is the future, yet Collins keeps it familiar to us. She doesn’t overwhelm us with futuristic gadgetry. The world she created is strongly grounded in our present and, thus, when something new appears, it takes us by surprise. The best authors are those that keep us guessing and Collins does this. We’re never quite sure what’s around the corner.
Overall, Collins crafted an interesting tale, masterfully contrasting Katniss, who shuts down emotionally and focuses on staying alive, and Peeta, who focuses on staying human.
This book strongly reminded me of Survivor on steroids. And, yes, for me, that’s a good thing.
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Sheila Hollinghead is an eclectic OCD, ADD, and LOL (lots of letters) author. She has started her series “In the Shadow of the Cedar” with Thundersnow. Follow her blogging adventures at Rise, Write, Shine!