The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This is not a new story - we've seen this type of dystopia before. In fact it's like Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" combined with Stephen King's The Running Man, except that you have a strong, likable 16 year old girl as the protagonist (Katniss), who even at her most ruthless, is still a sympathetic character, as well as a small little love story amidst the violence of the Hunger Games - where 24 teens enter the arena and gladiator style, only one can exit alive. The hidden cameras follow the teens as they hide, try to survive and even kill each other off for the ultimate prize of returning home to a life of luxury and ease.
Katniss lives in a postapocalyptic world where the Capitol, now the rulers of what once was the United States demands a tribute from each of its territories: two children to be used as gladiators in a televised fight to the death. Katniss, from what was once Appalachia, volunteers to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games. Her teammate, and fellow competitor, Peeta, is the character that brings humanity to this book, whereas Katniss, as a poacher and sole food provider for her family, possesses the cold, calculating skill to survive. It's a credit to the author that although Katniss manipulates the game to her advantage, she is still the kind of character that we want to root for and support. Although she doesn't always know her heart, I had faith that she would do the humane thing for Peeta, and for the most part, she did.
The sequel, Catching Fire, will be out in September.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Graveyard Book, winner of the John Newberry medal, is another example from the slightly bizarre, slightly dark, almost Roald Dahl-ish imagination of Neil Gaiman. Nobody "Bod" Owens is only a toddler when his parents and his sister are killed by a ruthless assassin (Jack). The precocious toddler, however, has already escaped from his crib and gone up the hill to the graveyard. The toddler is taken in by the Owens', a ghost couple, and grows up protected by a graveyard of ghosts and a guardian vampire. Unfortunately, when Jack returns to finish the job many years later, Bod alone must battle the man who killed his family.
“The boundaries are always there—between the graveyard and the world beyond, between life and death, and the crossing of them.” - Neil Gaiman
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Like many successful YA books, this is a quirky mixture of sci fi + chick lit + page turning plot twists + scary handsome sociopath. Jenna Fox has been in an accident and has been in a coma for the past year. When she gets up, she has no memory so her mom has her watching these dvds of her life. Things start not adding up: why does her grandmother seem to hate her? why did her family move from Boston within the last 2 weeks? where are her friends? It's a chilling portrait of how much parents will do to save their children, and it is an even more scary idea of how far are we willing to push science? What is a human being? This one is deserving of the accolades.