Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hunger Games (2008)

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is like Survivor on steroids. In a futuristic land called Panem, one boy and one girl are selected by drawing to represent their district in a competition called Hunger Games. The lone survivor is the winner and returns home to live comfortably for the rest of their life. Katniss lives with her widowed mother and younger sister in the 12th district where the main occupation is coal mining. Since her father was killed in the mines, she has learned to sneak outside the electrified fence to supplement her family's food with animals she hunts with a bow and arrow. When her sister is chosen for the games, she volunteers to go in her place and is paired with Peeta, the son of the town's baker.

Comparisons to the TV reality shows that seem to have taken over television these days is easy. Competitors are mentored by previous winners from their district and they are fed, dressed, and prepped for the program. They receive a locator which is injected in their arm and are presented to the county in televised interviews. Cameras cover their every move.

The action is riveting. Some of the kids have been training for this competition since they were very young so they are larger, stronger, and more skilled with weapons than our heroes. Some of the competitors are even smaller and weaker than Katniss but all of them have a talent that helps them survive for a time. The biggest enemy of all of them is the Capitol, host of the games, who is not adverse to using tricky tactics to make the game more interesting for the viewing audience.

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good action book with a little science fiction thrown in. Kids killing each other may be disturbing but happily enough, there are rules against cannibalism so we are spared there. ;-}
My rating for this book: ++++

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Generation Dead (2009)

Many schools have had to deal with integration problems. Different races, different sexualities, different abilities, or conditions such as HIV/AIDS have shaken up the social structure of schools through the years. Now, Oakvale High is presented with a new influx - the undead - or biotically different, to be more politically correct. Daniel Waters introduces us to several teens in the middle of this turmoil. Phoebe is friends with Adam and Margi (all living) and has a crush on Tommy (undead). Pete is a narrow minded, violent bully who doesn't believe that BDs belong in his school, much less on his football team. Tommy is our window into this new phenomenon. We follow all of these kids as they (and we) learn more about BDs and their developing culture.

Waters has created an interesting scenario for studying the dynamics of prejudice; overt and unintentional. How and where do they live? Do they have bodily functions and feelings? What does one do when you have a crush on one of them? He has chosen a perfect subject to study the different facets of integration by creating a totally new and inplausible subject that doesn't parallel any existing relationship.

A small complaint I have about this book is the cover. At first look, one might assume it is a book primarily aimed at young women but it is equally from boys' points of view and includes many detailed scenes on the football field. Unfortunately, I fear that most boys would be put off by the cover with a zombie cheerleader. They would be missing out on an excellent read.

I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy books about difficult relationships.
My rating for this book: ++++