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Category Archives: Dystopian

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games was chosen as my book club’s book choice for the month of February.  The participants were asked to write a review of the book prior to our discussion and I thought I should post it here as well.  I am very much looking forward to hearing the thoughts of my fellow readers and IRL book lovers.  Get ready for some huge fangirl action on this review because I absolutely love this series.

In the nation of Panem, the residents of the districts are controlled by the people of the Capitol.  While the districts reap harvests and nearly starve to death, the residents of the Capitol live in luxury, with every amenity at their fingertips.  Not only do the districts provide food and energy sources to the Capitol, they provide entertainment.  Each year, 2 teenagers from each district are chosen to participate in the bloodbath called The Hunger Games, in which the 24 “tributes” go head-to-head knowing they are literally fighting for their lives, knowing that only one will reign victorious and the others will meet their early graves.  So when 16-year-old Katniss’ sister is chosen as a participant, she finds she has no choice but to volunteer to take Prim’s place and enter the fight for her life.

Believable world-building is critical in dystopian novels such as this one, and Suzanne Collins gets it done.  While no reader wants to believe that the world can exist in such terrible form as Panem, it is easy to get caught up in this world and forget that The Hunger Games do not actually exist.  The author gets it down to every detail, including the geography, the lives of the Capitol residents and the emotions of starvation and vulnerability.  Facts are coupled with emotions, drawing us deeply into the lives of the tributes and their fight to stay alive.

Katniss, while not my favorite female protagonist in literature, is fabulous from the get-go.  After her father died, she was forced to start hunting and bargaining in order to keep her sister and mother fed and alive.  She is tough, brave and smart, though her deep love for her sister and best friend Gale bring her character full circle in emotionality.  Her ability to think quickly and take risks makes her likable, yet her vulnerability in certain situations make her character believable.

Without ruining the rest of the series for those that have not finished it, I will say that the symbolism and foreshadowing in this first novel are brilliant.  This novel is more than just a story of a brutal society, it is possibly an ode to free will and democracy, an imploration to consider each other as individuals with merit and value.

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Published by Scholastic

October 2008

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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Book Review, Dystopian, Scholastic, YA Books

 

Mini Book Reviews: Canadian Challenge

In July of this year, I joined the Canadian Reading Challenge, a commitment to read 13 books set in Canada or by a Canadian author, by July 1, 2011.  I recently finished two that I would like to share with you.  Consider these mini-reviews of books going towards my challenge goal.

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

Published by Putnam in May 2010

Sixteen-year-old Molly finds herself on an adventure of a lifetime in the year 2041, after the Collapse, during which the “big governments” seized the last of the oil in the world and everything changed for Canadian and American citizens.  Molly is a resident of a farming island off the coast of western Canada, but she is chosen by her family to rescue her grandparents living in Oregon, and bring them back to live with her.  All of this is made difficult when her grandfather refuses to come with her and she runs out of money.  She must befriend a member of a local crime organization and put her farming skills to good use in order to return to her family.

Molly is an extremely likable character, being brave, kind, affectionate and musically talented.  The fact that she literally risks her life to save not only her sick grandmother, but also her pregnant mother, speaks volumes about the value she finds in the lives of others.  The novel follows her fast-paced adventure well, with romance, family ties and adoption all in the mix.  However, the world that we find her living in seems to have some holes and discrepancies.  I found it difficult to follow through the author’s descriptions, and was quite confused about what exactly the “Collapse” was.  For instance, how would her sister be planning a huge wedding when it seems as if people barely have money for nutritious food?  Also, why would her brother work at a winery when people are paying big money for imported alcohol?  While I was distracted by these bits and pieces of the novel, I enjoyed Molly and Spill as characters and found their tale one of courage and inspiration.

Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots

by Abby McDonald

Published by Candlewick in April 2010

Seventeen-year-old Jenna is pumped to leave her comfortable Jersey life and her environmentalist group to put her plans and ideas into action in the Canadian wilderness.  As she begins her summer living with her godmother, helping her start a bed & breakfast and making friends with the locals, she realizes just how different life is across the continent.  This coming-of-age novel highlights the need to solid identity and true friendships.

I feel like I would have appreciated this book a bit more if I would have read it during the summer, right after it was published.  Reading about Jenna’s experiences learning how to climb rocks, mountain bike and canoe were very entertaining.  I could easily follow her realization of her true self.

While the pacing of the novel made it a bit difficult to follow at times (sometimes days drug on, while at other times a month passed in a few pages), Jenna’s friendships are worth reading about.  And being a bit of a geography nerd, I was confused at the fact that she would go swimming and sunbathe (and where, for a week or so, they are “baking” in the heat wave) in an area of Canada where the summer high temperatures barely reach 85 degrees.  Just a minor detail, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it bothered me.

All in all, great summer read, wonderful coming-of-age novel, likable characters.  Check it out!

 

#77 The City of Ember

The City of Ember brings us to the first piece of dystopian literature so far on the Top 100 Children’s Books list, moving from #100 to #1, that is.  What is dystopian literature? Simply put, it is a story set in a world that is anti-utopian.  Mostly set in futuristic societies, the people in these novels are sometimes oppressed and controlled by dictatorial or totalitarian governments.  Resources are often limited in supply and controlled protectively by aforementioned governments.  Some may describe societies in dystopian literature as post-apocalyptic, though certainly not all are.  A few classic examples include Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

The City of Ember, the first in the Ember series, follows the adventures of young Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow, living in a town with no natural light, and a limited supply of lightbulbs.  The people of Ember live with little awareness of the world outside their city.  Because they do not have flashlights, there is no way to venture out of the city without being in complete darkness.  But with the discovery of ancient documents alluding to the outside world, Lina and Doon team up to find out what exactly is awaiting them outside Ember.

I have to admit that I am usually pretty harsh on dystopian literature, having strict criteria to a believable world and characters.  The City of Ember did not disappoint as a whole, and after reading it, I added the next three books in the series to my to-be-read list.  And now I anxiously await the arrival of Netflix to see if the movie version lives up to the novel.

The City of Ember

by Jeanne Duprau

Originally published in 2003