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The Hunger Games: How Oppressive Society Can Make You Into a Sociopath
OK, I'll admit that I finally got around to reading this book because the movie's coming out soon (yesterday, in fact, at the time of this blogpost) and I wanted to be prepared. "The Hunger Games" has received a lot of praise and hype, and I wanted to see if it was as good as everyone says.Well, I've read it, and in my opinion, it's even better than I was told.
The story takes place in a far future North America, where a central capital located somewhere in the Rockies has absolute dictatorial control over 12 districts which span the continent and provide it with resources. In the past the twelve districts plus a thirteenth rebelled against their oppression by the capital, but they were brutally crushed. District 13 was completely obliterated, and the other 12 districts were required to send 2 young tributes every year to the titular Hunger Games, where all 24 brutally fight to the death until only one survives, who is crowned the victor and rewarded by being allowed to live in comfort for the rest of their lives.
Because of that last part, some of the richer districts closer to the capital have morphed being a tribute into an honor, but in District 12, the coal-mining district, people still see it as the horrifying punishment it is.Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl who keeps her family alive through poaching, views the annual process of picking tributes to send them off to die with the dull horror of acceptance. That is, until her younger sister Prim is picked, and Katniss volunteers to take her place. Now Katniss, along a baker's son named Peeta Mellark, has to represent District 12 and try her best to survive against both the brutal other tributes and the cruel designs of the Gamemakers, who control the environment the tributes fight in.
Katniss is a fascinating character, as living under oppression her entire life has made her apparently unable to consciously feel several emotions. Early on the advisers for both Peeta and Katniss encourage them to pretend to be in love in order to win the sympathies of sponsors, but it soon becomes clear to the reader (but not to Katniss) that Peeta isn't faking it. Over the course of their pretend relationship, Katniss begins to start to have actual feelings for Peeta, but she's unable to really process what it means. Kudos must go to Suzanne Collins, the author, for writing a character whose mindset has been so twisted by the society she lives in that she comes off as a sort of mild sociopath, while simultaneously making her mindset both understandable and comprehensible to the reader.
Further congratulations must also go to Collins for how bleak she makes the dystopian world of "The Hunger Games." Especially in the early chapters, we get to see how the Capitol rules with an unbelievably sadistic system of oppression which turns the residents of the outlying districts into essentially slave labor, all while making them pretend to be happy about it. Collins pulls no punches, and readers who haven't read young adult literature in a while may be shocked by how bleak this book is.
Despite the bleakness of the setting, Katniss is an inspiring heroine, who is resourceful, clever, and persistent. Through her, the story really flows along, and I found myself wanting to see how she would survive and surmount the obstacles thrown in her way.
I really liked this book, and I hope to enjoy its sequels just as much. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the movie adapts the plot. If you haven't read the book yet, you really should, as it a great book by an author I hope to see great things from in the future.