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Coco’s Pick: The Hunger Games
Everyone, at some point, has heard of recent bestseller The Hunger Games. If, for some reason, you haven’t—here’s your chance. Often compared to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, The Hunger Games follows suit as a bildungsroman whose protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, battles her way through adolescence while accompanied by two strapping young men: Gale and Peeta. Like Twilight, the two men vie for the protagonist’s attention throughout the book series, creating a constant source of entertainment for those romantics out there. Yet, unlike Bella from the Twilight series, Katniss does not fall into the role of victim and instead, becomes a source of strength for her family as well as the community.
As the title suggests, the novel revolves around a game: a fight to the death that involves the twelve districts that make up the post-apocalyptic society of Panem. Each district chooses one girl and one boy from their area to compete against the other districts in the games. Much like Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” ‘winning’ the spot to represent your district is not coveted. Instead, your role lands you in the twisted game that is broadcast in a fashion similar to the Olympics: constant footage of the games on giant screens fractured by a glossed over narrative of each contestant to engage the audience’s heartstrings. One can’t help but wonder if Suzanne Collins parked herself in front of a plasma screen, TV dinner and notebook on tray, and watched the Olympics hoping that someone would whip out a bow and arrow next to the Super-G racers and go to town (seriously, though, it’s totally a possibility).
So far I’ve established that the plot is a bit out there—kids killing each other for the entertainment of the men who run the Capitol. The thing is that while the plot seems overwrought and kitschy, Collins is somehow able to engage in the traditionally stilted thematic suspense of elevating each decision the protagonist makes to a life-or-death consequence, as we see in most all series for teens these days, but she does so in a way that works. You won’t cringe as you watch Katniss choose her fate, because honestly, you’d probably do the same thing. Because, get this, Collins’ characters are believable. Look at Haymitch: Katniss’ perpetually drunk coach with clutch one-liners and a shaky hand or Peeta: the baker’s son who, over the course of the trilogy, you see collapse and rebuild in a way you haven’t seen in a novel before. It’s the fullness of the characters where Collins gets you because, like it or not, she will make you care about them.
Ultimately, The Hunger Games is a teen novel with some narrative patterns you have seen before. But unlike other popular teen novels the characters develop in a manner that forces you to keep reading because you’ll feel the need to know how they all end up. My suggestion to you is this: check out the first book in the series—I guarantee you won’t be disappointed and the time you spend reading will serve as a wonderful distraction from midterms. And, hey, you will also have it read in time to catch the film adaptation coming out at the end of March!