Friday, October 22, 2010

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the first book of a trilogy. My library has it tagged as Young Adult Fiction which means that everyone from about 14 on up reads it. It's pretty dark, though, for young adult fiction.

The setting is post-apocalyptic North America. The country is now called Panem and it is controlled by the people and government in the city called The Capitol. Everywhere else is separated into Districts. There were 13 Districts but after an attempted uprising, The Capitol destroyed District 13 and subdued all others.

Since the uprising, The Capitol has forced the Districts to celebrate a "holiday" called The Reaping. This is where all children between 12 and 18 have their names put into a pool (one for boys and one for girls). The children can add their names extra times in trade for food and fuel for their families during the year. This means poor kids are more likely to have their names drawn than the wealthy. The name of one girl and one boy is drawn from each district.

These children are sent to The Capitol and then to an Arena (newly built each year) where they fight all the other children drawn in The Reaping in what is called The Hunger Games. This is a fight to the death. The last one standing wins and The Capitol showers them, their family and their District with wealth, food and fuel for the next year. The winner and their family are given a house in the wealthy neighborhood of their district for life.

The Hunger Games is told by a girl named Katniss who has supported herself, her mother and sister with her hunting skills since her father was killed in a mining accident. She is from District 12 which is the poorest of the Districts and she comes from the poorest area of the District.

It was an interesting story and well written enough that I'm planning to read the other two books. It's pretty dark since it is about government mandated murder of children murdering children. It would be a good book to read with a tween or teen to spark discussions of government and different types of government.
Also, the idea that the people of The Capitol being glued to their television screens during "The Game" to catch every minute of the horror is pretty disturbing. To them, the children are just Tributes and somehow they have lost sight of the humanity of each child and the horrible fact that they must kill to survive as mandated by law. The people of the Districts watch hopefully for the Tributes from their District but really only watch because they are required by law. Anyone found in their house and not watching is put to death. It makes one wonder how such a power as The Capitol could truly be defeated and whether the people there could be made to see how inhuman they have been.

It only took me a little over a day to read the book. It's not long and, because it is young adult fiction, it is written with simpler vocabulary and syntax so it's a pretty fast read.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Almost Moon

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

I have only read one other book by Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones, and it was creepy - so is this one.

A woman crosses a line and then has to deal with the aftermath. In just a moment of unplanned action, her entire existence is altered. The book bounces back and forth between her childhood and the current time but it isn't difficult to follow or disorienting the way it can be in some books.

The book covers just over 24 hours of time but much occurs and many choices are made by the character that make you want to cringe.

This was a good book and I recommend it to anyone who likes her books and/or who likes psychological thrillers - it's a little on the disturbing side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Forgive Me

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

This was a fast read. It was, in large part, about a woman examining her life without wanting to examine her life.

The main character, Nadine, is a foreign correspondent who seems to thrive on blood, gore, and tragedy. She is constantly moving and never letting anyone really get close to her.

Briefly in Mexico, the story is mostly in the Cape Cod and Nantucket area and South Africa. The scenes in South Africa are haunting and heart breaking in many ways.

This is a good read that made me want to keep on reading.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

I used to think that Romeo and Juliet was the best of all tragic love stories. You know, no one gets their true love and everyone dies. I may have to re-evaluate this.

Ethan Frome is a bleak and desolate book set in a bleak and desolate locale. It is a short novella and you don't really find out for sure "what happened" until the end. I don't want to be a spoiler but I have to say this. The best of all tragic love stories is one where the lovers are crippled for life and forced to rely on the care of the one person who keeps them apart, thereby keeping them from being happy. What more could you ask for in a tragedy?

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize but it wasn't for Ethan Frome. Ethan Frome was published in 1911 and it was 1920 when she published The Age of Innocence for which she won the Pulitzer. Summer, published in 1917 was apparently the companion to Ethan Frome. I am tempted to read Summer (especially if it is as short and easily read as Frome). I already have The Age of Innocence on my list of books to read (I read it years ago but I don't remember much about it).

For anyone who is a fan of tragedies or of Edith Wharton, I would recommend reading this book. If for no other reason, because it is only 130 pages long.