it’s like crack, but in a book form

For my bookclub where we aren’t too proud to be caught reading juvenile fiction, this month’s selection is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Normally I’m slow to get started on our reads, but this month I had borrowed the book from a friend and needed to get it back to her.  I cracked it open and vrooom!  I was sucked into this book like I haven’t been sucked into a book since I was a kid and would spend all Saturday lounging awkwardly on a chair in the living room with my nose in a book and my hand in a bowl of chocolate chips that I had stealthily removed from the kitchen.

Where to begin?  The hero of this novel is the spunky Katniss Everdeen who really isn’t so spunky or unique but a survivor which one has to be in the post apocalyptic world of Panem (formerly known as North America).  In order to protect her younger sister, Katniss becomes an unwitting participant in The Capitol’s Hunger Games, a contest/reality show/Theseus myth rip off where 24 teens are put in an arena and have to fight it out to the death.  The remaining kid is crowned a Victor and is set up for life with food, fame, etc.

It’s not just the labyrinthine plot that kept my interest until the wee hours of the morn, but it was the addicting, real characters.  So often in teen lit and teen movies all one gets is the obligatory caricatures (think “The Breakfast Club”), but this novel is chock-full of girls who are independent and tough without making it their calling card, boys who are brave and sincere, and adults who truly have issues.  It is the plot that keeps you engaged, but the characters are what keep you turning the pages well after sensible people are in bed.

After racing through The Hunger Games, I read the second book of the trilogy (Is there a rule that all teen lit has to be a series now?  Go with the money?) in a mere 48 hours.  Catching Fire might even be a more captivating read due to the nascent rebellion that is afoot in the districts and the at times disturbing parallels that one can draw between the world of Collins’s book and our own modern day political and entertainment cultures. Amusingly, Time named Catching Fire #4 on its list of 2009’s top fiction novels.  Much to big W’s consternation, one of his top reads of the past year, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, only clocked in at #5.

Unfortunately, it is going to be a long five months until the final installment of the series comes out in August, so I suppose I’ll have to go back to books more on my own reading level.  What a shame.

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