Opening Lines: The Hunger Games By Jean Rath

A few weeks ago on the EAC-NCR Bulletin, Bhavana posted an interesting article about the power of opening lines in books. I could relate to what she said about them. A few years ago when (on the recommendation of some teenagers) I first cracked open The Hunger Games, the first paragraph drew me in:

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.”

This paragraph does the triple job of setting the tone of affection between sisters, displaying the poverty that the main characters endure, and creating the atmosphere of fear that oppresses that world.

A few paragraphs later, the author cements the setting of hopelessness and fear with another description:

Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn’t until two. May as well sleep in. If you can.”

Those paragraphs made me want to keep going. I wanted to find out why the beaten-down residents of the Seam couldn’t sleep. So I kept reading… right to the end of the series.

The Hunger Games is the only Dystopian series I’ve read. Some of author Suzanne Collin’s literary techniques make me want to haul out my red pen, but that is completely cancelled out by the great storytelling. I think the series is very well done. The things that drive that world are so close to our own reality that it’s almost uncomfortable: most notably our culture’s strange custom of reality TV. We put people in situations that are bound to create drama, film them, and then gleefully watch them. The gamemakers in The Hunger Games are not that much different from the producers of reality TV shows: appease us (give us drama) and we will shower you with good things.

The Hunger Games speaks to the nature of power and the complications of popular resistance. It brings the tale of a revolution to a personal level and creates a very intriguing story arc. The main characters are ordinary likeable people thrust reluctantly into extraordinary circumstances. If you’ve ever wondered what a Young Adult Dystopian series is like, I recommend this one.

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