I hummed and haaed over whether or not to join the rest of the planet and read the Hunger Games books. On the one hand, I hate to be a sheep and read things purely because of the hype, but on the other it would be nice to be able to join in with all the conversations everyone else is having about them. I never read Harry Potter or Twilight and, while I'm sure I haven't missed out on a great literary gem, I still sometimes look blank when people mention Dumbledore or Bella and wonder what they're going on about. So, I took the plunge and downloaded the first book last night. Then I stayed up until 3am just to finish it. Oh dear, what have I started!
Our heroine and narrator is Katniss, a poor young resident of District 12, who volunteers herself for the games as a replacement for her beloved younger sister when her name comes up. Her male counterpart from District 12 is Peeta, who soon wins the hearts of the nation when he confesses on live television that he is in love with Katniss. But is he telling the truth or merely trying to gain favour from rich sponsors? Katniss spends much of the book examining Peeta's motives and wondering if he is about to betray her.
I can certainly see why this book is so popular with young fans. It's plot-driven and really delivers on excitement. The games themselves provide heaps of opportunity for tension and every chapter ends on a cliffhanger to ensure you keep on turning those pages. There's quite a lot of violence, as you can imagine given the subject matter, so I wouldn't recommend it for younger children, but for older teens it's a great read.
My usual criticism of YA is that there's a lack of character development and that does apply here; there's a lot more about the events themselves than how our characters feel about them. Peeta, in particular, is a definite stereotype without a great deal of personality and Cato - the main enemy from amongst their opponents - might as well be a bulldozer. But it's a bit if fun and I have to admit I got caught up in the story just as much as any 16 year old.
Will I go on to read the rest of the trilogy? Yes, of course I will!