The Hunger Games: Book 1

A book by Suzanne Collins.

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Who's Hungry?

  • Dec 20, 2012
Rating:
+2
We're all familiar with the old storytelling trope about the evil empire oppressing the good guys who are helpless to do anything about it. Those actual stories, though, have one particular thing in common: They're all told from the point of view of one of the scrappy revolutionary good guys. Has anyone ever wondered about the everyday people who weren't some secret spies for the rebels? This is the dynamic that author Suzanne Collins first introduces us to in The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy which eventually builds to a story about a revolution, but itself, The Hunger Games is about one everyday person in the evil empire striving to survive.

The evil empire in The Hunger Games is called Panem, which was once North America. Panem has a big, shining Capitol where, of course, all the high-ups live, wallow in excess, and don't have to fulfill the obligations laid on the ordinary people of Panem. Panem itself is twelve districts, each with a specific purpose in running the Capitol, which doesn't even send out thank-you cards for the efforts. (It used to be 13, but the mythological District 13 was wiped off the face of the Earth in the last revolution, and not everyone even believes it existed at all.) No, siree! It isn't like The Capitol just forgot about the districts, though, because they do send acknowledgement once a year in the form of The Reaping, a human selection pool with shades of Shirley Jackson's famous short story The Lottery in which a boy and a girl from every district between the ages of twelve and 18 are selected to compete in a popular event called The Hunger Games, a fight to the death. The winner's district gets extra food and supplies, and the winner gets rich. The Capitol plays up The Hunger Games like some great sporting tradition akin to the Super Bowl, and some districts - namely the ones that act as lapdogs to The Capitol - actually buy into that perception, producing athletes known as "Careers" who have trained for the games for their whole lives. Other districts see The Hunger Games for what they really are: A form of control. Attendance at The Reaping is mandatory, watching the games themselves is also mandatory, and The Capitol uses them to assert its dominance and remind the districts of what can happen to the people of Panem if they don't fall in line.

Enter the Everdeen family. Their mother, older daughter Katniss, who provides for them since the father was blown up in an accident with a leftover war land mine, and younger daughter Primrose, eligible for The Reaping for the first time this year and scared of her shadow. There are ways to minimize the chances of having your name drawn from The Reaping, and Katniss and Primrose have used all of them to keep Prim out of The Hunger Games. So when Prim's name comes up as the girl Tribute anyway, Kat doesn't allow her fearful younger sister visit The Capitol to compete and sacrifices herself in Prim's stead.

The Hunger Games focuses on the games themselves. We enjoy the viewpoint of Katniss, first-person, present-tense. This viewpoint gives the book a sense of authentic urgency. Katniss has her views on Panem, The Capitol, the Careers, her opponents, and other things, but she's living with an immediacy which doesn't give her a whole lot of time to think about much else. She'll complain about The Capitol and how unfair The Reaping is later; right now, she has to figure out where her next meal during the games is coming from. We are given just enough dialogue to know how her world works, so most of what she's saying are her descriptions of her own immediate actions. This is also good for the book's pacing, so even though there are flashbacks and sidetracks, it never feels quite as long as it is. The viewpoint also gives us a glimpse of the way Katniss keeps strategizing, making everything up as she goes along, wondering why her opponents are performing their actions for what reasons, and thinking up the various ways she should respond, or her next course of action.

It helps that most of the book takes place during the games themselves. It goes by in three arenas: Katniss's district - twelve - The Capitol, and The Hunger Games arena. District Twelve is where The Reaping takes place. The Capitol is where Katniss is prepared and advised and mentored, and the arena is a giant wilderness area where the games themselves occur.

The world The Hunger Games takes place in seems to be some weird blend of science fiction and fantasy. Collins seems to be writing in solutions to Katniss's various obstacles as they are convenient to the plot, not necessarily to the obstacles themselves or or the character. It's established that in the arena, when things are sent by sponsors, they just appear out of thin air. The Gamemakers give The Hunger Games an incorporeal, godlike presence; they control the games through controlling many of the conditions taking place within the arena, most notably the weather. It's never explained how they do this, and we only get a half explanation as to why they do it. When one of the Tributes dies, a cannon is always set off immediately after their death, and a hovercraft suddenly materializes and removes the body. Maybe the other two books in the trilogy explain the how, but The Hunger Games leaves us to believe The Gamemakers are little more than some supernatural entity. It has a feel of convenience to it, so Collins can get Katniss out of anywhere for free.

Every book has to have a love story, and Katniss starts out with her hunter friend Gale. Well, there's one notable exception to the love story between Gale and Katniss which makes it different from most: They're not actually in love, and don't think of each other in that way, and Katniss never even hints that she sees Gale as a husband. Gale is really a more arbitrary character in The Hunger Games. I understand he plays a bigger role as the series continues, but he really doesn't show up beyond the chapters after The Reaping. Katniss gets to take to the arena with a District Twelve Tribute named Peeta, a baker's kid who can lift a lot of weight. Peeta proclaims his lifelong crush on Katniss during the pre-game interviews, which annoys Katniss because she thinks it's a ploy for him to win more sponsors. The little love story between Katniss and Peeta is the worst thing about The Hunger Games. Their story has to play out in the arena, in front of all of Panem, with Katniss strategizing through all of it. We never are able to figure out just what Katniss thinks of Peeta - at times, she comes off like she's using him to win, relying on the aw factor to win sympathy. At other times, she speaks like she's developing feelings for him. Generally she is just very confused about Peeta. Not just her feelings for Peeta, but Peeta himself, and this makes her less endearing.

The book slows down, in fact, because of an extended scene between Katniss and Peeta where the two of them stay in a cave, and Katniss tends to some nasty wounds Peeta incurred. The whole scene drags out for several chapters, and it seems that all of Katniss's immediate thoughts revolve around Peeta, her feelings for Peeta, what Peeta could possibly be trying to pull, and other things of that nature. It oesn't do anything to enhance the story, and the whole book could probably have been cut by about 50 pages without it.

The Hunger Games will strike a resonant bone with paranoid types, but in the end it's good entertainment. Cultural commentary may vary depending on the reader. I loved the movie based on it, and the book fills in a few details not explained by the movie, which makes it all the more interesting. It's a good read, a quick read, and you won't have any regrets about it later.

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More The Hunger Games reviews
review by . June 16, 2010
Have you ever read a book and after you finish it you want to kind of shove it into anyone and everyone else’s hands so they can read it too? This is the state I’ve been in ever since completing The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I can’t even remember where I first heard about this book. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read all year. I’m only sorry I didn’t discover it sooner.                 …
Quick Tip by . April 16, 2012
posted in Forbidden Planet
I liked the book. I've read a good bit of dystopian literature,and I found the premise fascinating. But I have to say that I was badly distracted by some fairly dreadful flaws in the actual writing. Way too much was "telegraphed", and the plot bogged down in a couple of places. I wish I could have given it higher marks -- but really can't.
review by . December 16, 2010
posted in Forbidden Planet
Staying alive
Novels with dystopian themes have been popular for generations, and one of the newest, The Hunger Games, is worthy enough to merit a place among the classics. Written for teens, with adolescent main characters, the story will snag and rivet the attention of an older readership as well. The plot is straightforward: the American democratic experiment has failed, leaving the surviving population distributed among a dozen rigidly separated settlements, each region assigned to produce a specific commodity …
review by . July 07, 2010
When I first read the summary for Hunger, I had a clear picture in my head of what was going to take place within these pages: a no-holds barred, youth-oriented battle royale. If that's what you want to read, then you will get that in this book. But the beauty of what Collins has done here is that you also get so much more.      Hunger opens when the protagonist, Katniss, is chosen to participate in the annual Games, an event created by the Capitol to keep down the rebellious …
review by . November 13, 2010
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Ruthless and calculating, the Capitol rules the districts with an iron hand. Especially after what happened to District 13. But people don’t talk about that. Inside the Capitol life is a constant celebration filled with beauty and abundance, especially during the Games. Outside the Capitol, in the other districts, people live in poverty struggling to find …
review by . July 26, 2010
So my friend Sarah has been trying to get me to read this book since it first appeared in the hands of her middle school students.  She says she thinks it’s “better than Harry Potter”.  While I’m not ready to go that far, I do think Suzanne Collins has successfully created a series that is head and shoulders above the enormous pool of fantasy/dystopian young adult books that have exploded on the market since J.K. Rowling opened the floodgates.      …
review by . June 27, 2010
This is the first of the best young adult series that I've read all year. In "the Hunger Games" we see a government gone wrong. By wresting control of all life from it's constituents, the government has consigned them to a life of horror. The heroine and narrator is Katniss Evergreen, a practical, level-headed teen and the sole support of her mother and younger sister. Her father having died in a mine explosion (the family lives in a coal-mining district with an Appalachian feel, …
review by . August 02, 2010
"There's some confusion on the stage. District 12 hasn't had a volunteer in decades and the protocol has become rusty. The rule is that onece a tribute's name has been pulled from the ball, another eligible boy, if a boy's name has been read, or a girl, if a girl's name has been read, can step forward to take his or her place. In some districts, in which winning the reaping is such a great honor, people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated. But in District 12, where the …
review by . October 06, 2010
Hunger Games and it's second part ( Catching Fire) were Christmas gifts from my boyfriend but I must admit that I haven't really heard much about them prior to last year's holiday. Once I had them all sorts of wonderful reviews started to come to my attention and I wondered: what is this book, why is it so special? All I had to do was read it to find out for myself but I read it without knowing too much of the plot and I have to say it was a wonderful way to go about it. The book was …
review by . September 02, 2010
     My husband bought me this book, and though I'd heard of the book, I'd never even bothered to look up what it might be about. I wish I had read it earlier! It took a couple chapters to really pick up my interest, and after that I couldn't put it down. I had it completely read in one day.        Katniss Everdeen is a 16 year old girl who lives in District 12 of the country Panem, which is what is left of what used to be the United …
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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The Hunger Games is a young adult science fiction novel written by bestselling author of The Underland ChroniclesSuzanne Collins. It was originally published in hardcover on September 14, 2008 by Scholastic Press. It is the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, with two more books to come. It introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world where a dictatorship called the Capitol has risen up after several devastating disasters. In the book, the Hunger Games are an annual televised event where a ruthless Capitol randomly selects one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts, who are then pitted against each other in a game of survival and forced to kill until only one remains.

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ISBN-10: 0439023521
ISBN-13: 978-0439023528
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Teens
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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