Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Hunger Games

Reading is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  It always makes me happy, even when the book is heart-breakingly sad.  No matter my mood, I know I can find a book that will suit it and will take me into another world. 

Every so often, I stumble upon a book that is so incredibly good, I don't want to keep reading it because I don't want it to end - but I have to keep reading it because I need to know what happens.  Has that ever happened to you?  One such book for me was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which I still think about.  Another was Her Fearful Symmetry, the second novel by Audrey Niffinegger (of The Time Traveler's Wife brilliance).

I've now found another such book, one that I can barely put down and one that will surely make me miss my subway stop at some point: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

(I'm very excited that these three books are all authored by women.)

One thing to note about The Hunger Games is that it's a young adult novel, with teenaged characters and adults existing mostly on the periphery.  So what makes it work at an "old" adult level?  This book isn't about emo teens, sitting in a dark corner listening to Linkin Park.  Rather, it touches on issues that are important to teenagers - family, friends, success, love, acceptance - but are also issues for adults.  These things don't end once we exit our teen years; what 20-/30-/40-something doesn't worry and wonder about their family, maintaining friendships, finding success in life, falling in love and finding that place in life where they are accepted not just by those around them but into what is around them?  We may not be angsty as adults (or maybe we still are, we just hide it better) but the book dwells on issues that translate across both a younger and older audience.  By doing this, the book stops being for young adults and starts being for everyone.

I'm twice as old as Katniss, the main protagonist, but I can still relate to her.  She also makes me feel incredibly wimpy and weak, but you'll have to read the book to understand why.  For me, that is great storytelling.  The book also almost made me cry on the subway this morning and not many books make me cry. 

There is one giveaway that it was written for a younger audience and that is the book is clearly plot-driven; it's always moving ahead and, though we learn about the characters and back stories are woven in to the narrative quite well, it's always getting us from point A to B to C, and on and on.  (Although that is something else I enjoy in books; I'm not a fan of books where people have feelings at each other for 400 pages.)

One note of caution: The Hunger Games is book one of a trilogy.  If you plan to read it, don't read the jacket copy of either the second or third book, lest you have the story spoiled.  I made that mistake. 

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