Wow.  Just wow.

Now that I have that out of the way, I should say that THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins is the first book in a series.  So far all of the books that I’ve deconstructed have been stand-alone novels.  But that’s a little misleading to what I really love to read and write.  I love a good series.  If you can hook me with the opening book in a series, I’m yours for the whole ride.  And so far, both of the novels I’ve written and the one I’m currently working on were complete stories with potential to be a series.

When it comes to this blog, though, I’m only going to look at the first book in a series.  In a series, the first book better hook you.  It better be rewarding story with not just a satisfying ending but also a big enough world to spawn more stories.  For me, at this point in my writing experience, first books of series are what I really need to study the most.

So, I decided to take a look at THE HUNGER GAMES.  It came out in 2008 and got a bunch of accolades, including winning the Cybil Award, being a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, it was a New York Times bestseller, a Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller, and a Wall Street Journal Bestseller.  Suzanne Collins has also written the wildly popular OVERLAND CHRONICLES which scored plenty of awards as well. You can see Ms. Collins’s sparse but informative website here.  There’s also a pretty awesome UK based HUNGER GAMES site with very cool illustrations, downloads, games, and sample chapters from the first two books.

THE HUNGER GAMES is dystopic sci-fi.  The United States is divided into twelve districts that surround Oz-like, all powerful capitol city.  As punishment for a civilian uprising that happened sometime in the distant past, each if the districts are forced to send two of their teenagers as “tributes” to the capitol city every year.  These teens fight to the death in a televised game that’s a cross between Survivor and Lord of the Flies.

Our main character is Katness Everdeen and you just love her.  She hunts illegally outside of the district gates to feed her mother and sister after her father dies.  Nothing is dearer to her than her delicate little sister Prim.  She’s hot-headed, honest, resourceful, and an absolute survivor.  When Prim is selected by the lottery to be the female tribute from her district, Katness volunteers to go in her place.  It’s virtually a death sentence and she knows it.

Along with Katness, a boy named Peeta Mellerk is selected by the lottery to be the male tribute.  He’s the exact opposite of Katness: he’s charming, witty, and non-violent.  He’s the son of a baker so, although he’s limited to the stale leftovers in his bakery, he’s never really gone hungry.  His talents offer little hope for survival in the Hunger Game arena but he’s adept at manipulating the audience that eagerly watches.  And the sponsors that send lifesaving gifts.

Besides Katness and Peeta, there are a whole cast of well developed likeable (and, oh yes, hate-able) characters.  There’s Katness best friend and hunting partner, a boy named Gale.  It sets up possibilities for a very interesting love triangle.  There’s also a small, crafty little tribute that Katness takes a liking to named Rue.  On the other hand, there’s an enormous, privliged tribute from a wealthy district named Cato.  He really has a grudge against Katness and it makes for some great tension.  There’s also the complicated character of Haymitch.  He survived the Hunger Games many years ago and must mentor the new tributes every year.  And every year he watches them die.  And so he drinks away his pain.

Aside from these primary characters, there are a total of twenty-four tributes, a number of which get at least some character development.  There is the team of stylists that make Katness and Peeta presentable for television.  And there are more than a few interesting people back in hunger-ridden, overworked population of Katness’ and Peeta’s home district.

I’m really excited to work on this book.  It absolutely took my breath away.  It’s a great read and even a good re-read (I admit to reliving my favorite scenes several times since I finished the thing).  So, it should be a lot of fun analyzing the characters, setting, plotting, and writing style with you!