The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I should have read this book about two years ago when my friend Alana told me about it; it would be much less of a cliché had I written this review then, instead of now!  The reason I did not immediately search out a copy of the book as per Alana’s recommendation was that the recommendation came along with a warning. “This book is disturbing,” I believe she said (Alana, correct me if I’m wrong?).  Disturbing or not, she loved it.  But I am a chicken.  Disturbing things give me nightmares.  I can barely bring myself to talk about The Road (which I only managed to read half of).  So it was with great apprehension that I ordered myself a copy of The Hunger Games about a month ago, as hype for the movie was just building.  I love Harry Potter and that kind of pop culture and I like to be at least somewhat current on the trends.  After about 20 pages of The Hunger Games, I honestly wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish it.  Who wouldn’t find the premise disturbing? A futuristic world where a yearly ‘reaping’ results in 24 teenagers chosen to fight each other to the death, for the (mandatory) viewing pleasure of the rest of the population? Very grim indeed.  If the Hunger Games had been written by Stephen King I would not have read past page 20.  However the knowledge that this is a kids’ book, after all, led me to suspect that it likely would not be too gory, or too disturbing, and that the main character(s?) probably wouldn’t die.  Two other hooks kept me reading: I genuinely liked the main character, Katniss, whose first-person voice narrates the story.  The other hook was that I desperately wanted to know what point the author was trying to make.  I was certain that there was some powerful allegory underlying the disturbing premise.  However in losing myself completely in The Hunger Games (it took me 3 days to read it; probably a total of 5 hours) I totally forgot to ponder the possible allegorical dimension.  I just had to know what happened.  Immediately.  It was a Globe and Mail article published the day after I finished the book that revealed the cleverness of The Hunger Games and I felt like an idiot for not having seen it sooner.  It is obvious if you take the time to think about it as you read.  But good luck: this is a gripping read and I suspect that like me, you will turn the pages as quickly as possible, giving yourself little time for reflection.

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