I keep stumbling on wonderful books and authors I never heard of, and it makes me feel like I must live in a cave not to have known about them before. The latest was The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I couldn’t put it down.
Like the equally haunting The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, The Hunger Games is sold as a book for young adults. A lot of not-so-young adults may never hear about either book, and that’s a shame. Think Kafka. Think Margaret Atwood. Think Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, or Denis Johnson’s Fiskadoro.
The Book Thief is set during World War II and is narrated by Death. The Hunger Games is set in some unnamed post-apocalyptic future and is narrated by a sixteen-year-old girl. Both books illuminate the courage it takes to live with honor, no matter what state of chaos the world is in at the time. Neither book whitewashes reality: death can take the bravest and the best of us, and the majority of the world is at the mercy of idiotic bureaucracies too bloated with self-importance to accomplish anything good. But in both books, the power of decency and love survives even when good people don’t.
If that sounds corny, it’s the fault of my description and not of the books themselves. I highly recommend both books, and from now on I’m going to pay closer attention to the YA section of my bookstore.