I recently read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and was absolutely floored by it. I would never have picked a dystopian novel on my own, especially one with such a gruesome premise. [The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic U.S. made up of twelve districts ruled by a brutal, totalitarian regime. Once a year, each district is forced to send a tribute of its children to participate in the Hunger Games – a nationally-televised fight to the death.]
My daughter has been reading dystopian novels in English class and this was one of the selections. It’s been mentioned several times at writer’s conferences as well; thus, my curiosity was piqued. So I picked it up and started reading.
The novel pulled me in from the first paragraph with the mention of “the reaping.” As the chapter unfolds, we learn about the Hunger Games and begin to fear for Katniss and Gale, who are at great risk of being chosen for the games. At the end of the first chapter, we discover whose name is picked. It’s a twist that I didn’t expect and set the stakes very high. And I was hooked.
The Hunger Games is written in first person present tense. Using first person brings an immediacy and limited perspective that really adds to the tension. We only know what Katniss knows and discover things as she does. I thought the use of present tense would be a problem for me, but that too worked given that the narrator is only sixteen. It fit the teenage protagonist.
While it does have its gore, the novel was far more hopeful and engaging than I ever expected. And the suspense was incredible. It’s the kind of story you can’t get out of your head. You end up thinking about it long after you close the book.