SPOILER ALERT!!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! If you are currently reading, or planning to read this book, do not proceed! You have been warned!!
I gave this book five stars on Goodreads. I almost didn’t give this book five stars. I’ll explain in a minute. First of all, let me say that it’s been a long time since I read a book in a single day. Of course it’s been a long time since I’ve had a day to sit and do nothing but read. Nevertheless…I started The Hunger Games right after I finished The Glory of Their Times on Saturday, March 10, 2012, while my wife and I were in Glen Rose, celebrating my birthday (March 13). That night, at around 9-ish, I tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I got up and went downstairs in our cabin and read until I finished the book, around 1130!
The book follows a most barbaric practice of a futuristic country, known as Panem (the country, not the practice). Panem is made up of The Capitol and twelve districts. There used to be thirteen districts, but once upon a time, the districts rebelled against the Capitol, and in the ensuing war, District 13 was completely destroyed. The Capitol won, of course, so, as punishment, every year two children, from ages 12-18, must be randomly selected from each district to participate in The Hunger Games. These are called “tributes.” These 24 tributes are then taken to an arena somewhere, with different terrains each year, where they fight to the death. The last tribute left is declared the winner, and that tribute’s district is showered with gifts of food and other things for the next year, while the rest of the districts continue to starve. Everyone must watch the games on their televisions. Everyone in the district must attend the “reapings,” where the tributes are chosen. It’s like 1984 on steroids!
Our main character is Katniss Everdeen. She is named after a plant that is found growing in water, which has edible roots. She is 16. Her little sister, Primrose, is twelve. Twelve is the youngest age eligible to be chosen as a tribute. At twelve, each person gets their name in the pot once. Each year older, they add their name one more time. However, they can also add their names more times for additional food for their families. Katniss has hers in there about eight times, I believe, and her best friend, Gale (a boy), has his in there around 42 times. As luck would have it, when the reaping comes, twelve year old Primrose is chosen. As she walks toward the stage, stunned, her sister, Katniss, jumps in front of her and volunteers to go in her place. This causes some confusion as this hasn’t happened in District 12 for several decades. However, 16 year old Katniss is allowed to go in place of her sister. The boy chosen is named Peeta.
As the story progresses, Peeta declares his love for Katniss. It is unclear at first if this is just a ploy to gain popularity, and, thereby, more sponsors (they can get “gifts” during the games from sponsors, which could help them win), or if he is being truthful. Within the first hundred pages, I predicted the ending correctly, believing that Peeta and Katniss would be the last two left and would refuse to kill each other, thereby ruining the Games for that year.
However, along the way, other things happen, such as Peeta making an alliance with tributes from District 1 and 2, which tend to be called “Career Tributes,” because their districts train them before hand to be winners in the Hunger Games. This causes Katniss to be quite furious at him, and she vows to kill him. At some point, though, he saves her life from them, after she has managed to kill several of them. As she grapples with her feelings about this, here comes the reason I almost didn’t give this book five stars. There is a HUGE “deus ex machina” at the end of part two! Suddenly, out of nowhere, the President of the Games announces that there could be two winners this year, if the last two tributes are from the same district! Immediately, Katniss cries out Peeta’s name, because, at that particular moment, no one knew where he was, and he was alleged to be gravely injured. I actually got a little angry at the author for that bit.
For the majority of part three, Katniss hunts for Peeta and then nurses him back to health. They play up the romance part (and, to be truthful, it wasn’t all playing) for the constant camera attention (I forgot to mention that this is all recorded and televised, and all tributes have a tracker inserted under their skin), and it actually gets them some medication and food from the sponsors.
At one point, in order to get the last few tributes in the same area and make things more interesting, the “Gamemakers” lure the tributes with backpacks that allegedly have something they need very badly in them. Katniss drugs Peeta with something the sponsors provided, because he wouldn’t let her go. When she gets to the place where the backpacks are, she is caught by one of the other tributes, and in danger of being killed by her. Another one of the tributes shows up, and he just happens to be from the same district as a twelve year old girl that Katniss had befriended and formed an alliance with, named Rue. Rue had been killed by the group from Districts 1 and 2, one of which was sitting on top of her at the moment. The boy from District 11 literally picks up the girl and throws her behind him, killing her by bashing her skull in with a rock. He then confronts Katniss, but winds up letting her go because she had been kind to his fellow tribute. He is later killed by Cato, who winds up being the last tribute left, other than Peeta and Katniss.
Predictably (I mean, really…who doesn’t already know that Katniss will be alive at the end?), Katniss and Peeta manage to knock off Cato (with a little help from the Gamemakers, who managed to manufacture some pretty horrible creatures out of all of the other dead tributes), and as they wait for the announcement that they have won, the president comes back on and says they’ve changed their minds…there can only be one winner. Peeta reaches for his knife. Katniss reaches for her bow. Peeta throws his knife in the lake. Katniss throws her bow down. Peeta begs Katniss to go ahead and kill him. But Katniss has another plan. She pulls out some poison berries that they had collected and hands some to Peeta. On the count of three, they will both eat the berries and commit suicide, thereby ruining the entire Games for the Capitol and the Gamemakers. (See?? I guessed it!! Well, not the suicide part.) Just as they get the berries into their mouths, the president comes back and says, “Stop!!!” And announces that they are both winners. They spew out the berries, wash out their mouths, and are both collected by the hovercrafts and taken back to the Capitol.
As the great celebration comes around, Katniss finds out that she is in big trouble, because she has “played” the Capitol. They don’t like that one bit. So, she is told by her mentor that she must play up the idea that she just couldn’t bear to live without Peeta, so that’s why they did the thing with the berries. It appears to have worked. But as her and Peeta get closer to home on the trip back, she begins to experience confusion, because she’s thinking a lot about Gale (remember him?). The book ends on a semi-cliff-hanger, as they are about to step off the train back in District 12.
This was a very good read, and a very quick read. It was very difficult to put down. It’s classified as “Young reader” material, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Interestingly, as there was a lot of violence in the book, I can’t remember one single curse word. Not even a “damn.” That is very unusual.
I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, wondering what will be changed to make it a movie. Should be interesting.