The USA as we know it is destroyed. The Capitol, the powerful capital of the newly created country Panem controls the other 12 districts through deprivation, obedience and fear. The 13th district has been eliminated, when it rebelled against the controlled society. For remembrance and punishment, the Capitol has introduced a new form of entertainment – the Hunger Games. Each year a lottery chooses a boy and a girl between the age of 12 and 18 from each of the districts, who are thrown into an arena carefully controlled and managed by the game makers. Natural disasters, traps, and occasional gifts are thrown in order to turn the competitors against each other and to provide a bloody massacre for the viewers. This year, however, the organizers haven’t taken in mind one factor – Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss has the unfortunate luck of living in the poorest of the districts – 12. No one from the district had won the Hunger Games in 30 years and the region is deprived from the awards associated with them. After her father’s death in the mines she starts taking care of her mentally disabled mother and younger sister Prim. In order to feed her family in the most starving region of the Panem, Katniss daily breaks many rules – she escapes through the electric fence guarding the district, she hunts for wild animals, and she sells them on the black market. Together with her best friend Gale they have mastered the art of survival, while secretly dreaming of escaping. Katniss has this opportunity earlier than she imagined. On this year’s Hunger Games her sister is chosen as a tribute, or a contestant. Without thinking, Katniss takes her place towards a sure death. The other tribute is Peeta, the quiet son of the baker, who has secret powers and a secret affection for Katniss.
The games have begun. The contestants are in the arena, thirsty for victory and blood. As usual, the trained tributes from the wealthiest regions have the edge, while Katniss is fighting hunger, thirst, and loneliness. Her training in the woods with Gale, however, has prepared her and she throws into the game with the greatest desire not to win but to stay alive – because this is what she has promised her little sister. The Hunger Games drive out the most animalistic features in these children, who in their acts resemble more wild animals set free than human beings with heart and soul. However, the Capitol hasn’t taken into consideration that Katniss, Peeta, and several others actually feel. Katniss forms an unusual bond with a 12-year old girl from another district and desperately tries to protect her. Later, her life is saved by a contestant from the same region grateful for her help. But most importantly, Peeta is set to ensure that Katniss will survive.
“I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don’t own me. If I’m gonna die, I wanna still be me.” That is what Peeta wishes before the games have begun. However, this is exactly what the Capitol is trying to do – show people that they are owned, controlled, and can die just for the pleasure of the strongest. Violent death for some is a nice pleasure for others. In The Hunger Games Collins portrays a futuristic society that scarily reminds us of our own (without mentioning any names I would just like to point out that several months ago certain people were celebrating the death of another human being). Her talent to describe a dystopian future world is comparable to Orwell, Huxley, and Bradbury. The book is dark, violent, and consuming. Maybe because it is about children or maybe because it actually places people directly against each other, The Hunger Games had a greater impression on me than 1984 and A Brave New World. I kept asking my self what would I do if I was turned against 23 human beings with the highest stake – my life. It is immensely difficult to remain a human in this situation. It is almost impossible to feel compassion for someone, when you know you have to kill him to survive. Yet, Katniss and Peeta have something the Capitol hasn’t expected – a great desire to stay alive TOGETHER. This might cost them their life but if they succeed it might cost the Capitol even more – its power.
I can’t even begin to explain how obsessive, infatuating, and consuming this novel is. I don’t have the time. My hands are trembling to get hold of the next book. For a trilogy named a bestseller from almost every newspaper, the first book The Hunger Games sets the stake very high. Given Collins’s amazing imagination and great skills of a storyteller, I really doubt the following two will be worse.