This review was originally published on Pol Culture.
The Hunger Games, the first book in Suzanne Collins’ young-adult dystopian trilogy, is a first-rate pulp adventure novel. In a distant post-apocalyptic future, North America is divided into twelve districts ruled by a capital city in the Rocky Mountains. Once a year, each district is required to send a teenage boy and girl to participate in the Hunger Games, a reality-TV competition in which the teenagers hunt and kill each other until only one remains. Collins’ protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is the self-reliant frontier hero of American romanticism vividly reimagined as a 16-year-old girl. She’s an expert hunter and the pillar of her family. She also has a strong maternal side, and her self-discipline is such that her interest in the opposite sex is relegated to a tentative afterthought. For her, the challenge of the competition is physical, spiritual, and a matter of duty: to survive for the sake of her family, and to do so without sacrificing her soul. The novel hooks the reader from the first page. Collins’ sense of character and conflict are acute, and her imagining of the book’s satiric future world is almost as impressive. The competition section is extraordinarily well-crafted; the ebb and flow of the action is just superbly orchestrated. As with all worthwhile suspense novels, one may feel one can’t put it down, and one will all but certainly finish it eager for the next book in the trilogy. One caveat: the book’s young-adult designation only reflects the prose difficulty and the absence of sex and profanity. The quantity and explicitness of the violence may seem more suited for an adult readership. In any case, the book is definitely not appropriate for pre-adolescent children.