The hoopla over The Hunger Games did not tempt me into a theater full of teens. But it did get me to buy the book and having read it, I might just sneak off some afternoon. It is deemed “young adult” fiction because, I suppose, it has clean punchy prose, a story that moves quickly, and a teen hero. But except for older heros, you can say the same about Elmore Leonard.
Ancient Romans were ruled by Patricians, a powerful elite who kept the Plebs distracted by having gladiator slaves slaughter each other. It’s a clear model for The Hunger Games, set in a hellish dystopia that was North America before oceans rose to swallow its coastlines. An overlord elite in The Capitol located in the Rocky Mountains, rules 12 numbered Districts, each with a specific function—mining, farming, manufacturing, etc. A shadowy ruler with the power of instant death is surrounded by degenerate luxury while the Districts starve.
Two candidates a year, female and male, picked by lottery, travel to the Capitol to battle to the death while everyone watches on TV. In lowly coal-mining District 12, a helpless 12-year old girl makes the fatal draw but her big sister, sixteen year-old Katniss, volunteers in her place. Katniss combines qualities of Daisy Miller, Jane Eyre, and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Katniss tells the story, non-stop action using her forest survival skills to emerge as winner, As for sex, none at all, unless you count a first kiss and immaculate sharing of a sleeping bag with Peeta, a boy from her home district. She returns to District 12 with a grinding hated of Capitol overlords and personally torn between Peeta, whose life she’d saved, and Gale, her home district hunting partner who’d honed her skills. What happens next is in two sequels which I resolved not to buy. But with a Kindle at hand, both books only keystrokes and two minutes away, who knows?