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The Hunger Games: Book 1

A book by Suzanne Collins.

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An Amusing Novel

  • Aug 30, 2009
Rating:
+4
In the realm of young adult literature Stephenie Meyer is perhaps the one who really turned it on its head.  Since Twilight came about there has been a consistent formula at work with a lot of young adult literature.  The first is you take an average, everyday, normal girl (whatever normal means) and stick her in a situation with an unusually dark, mysterious and hot guy and then you have them go on some type of adventure together where they both fall in love and the guy ends up being the hero and the girl ends up being saved.  There has to be fantasy and romance.  Twilight comes to mind but so do books like the City of Bones series.  If it isn't that then it has been that there has been a recent surge in vampire fiction.  That's NOT because of Twilight, but rather because vampires are popular.  The young adult literature market owes most of its popularity in this day and age to fantasy and the vampire.  Sometimes it can be amusing, but as is often the case, trends tend to die down after a while.  I, for one, am a little tired of the formulaic, "Weak girl meets strong, dark, mysterious, handsome guy," (Ironically enough, most of these types of books are written by women) and if I read another book about vampires, werewolves or (another favorite) witches, I just might bust a nut. 

Enter The Hunger Games.  Compared to most of what's on the Young Adult market today, The Hunger Games is refreshing to read because it takes the tired formula and makes it better, and it doesn't rely on so much fantasy to be good.  Let's not be discouraged though.  There's nothing wrong with fantasy or werewolves or vampires etc., it is mostly that when a trend in literature comes about (especially Young Adult literature) you do begin to get a feeling that everything is starting to mesh.  Vampires are the popular thing, right now in YA lit, and that's all the more reason why some of those kinds of books are annoying.  There needs to be variety in the market.  This is precisely why The Hunger Games is so refreshing.  It doesn't feel new, but it definitely feels different.  Like someone added some spice to the Young Adult genre.

The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss Everdeen and a place known as the Capital.  In the Capital life is grand and sweet.  Unfortunately, that's not where Katniss lives.  She lives below the capital in one of the districts.  There are 12 districts where life is hard.  People often have to work all day and fend for themselves, where as those in the capital have luxury. 

There is one way to get out of the districts, and that's through the annual Hunger Games.  In these games, two children from each District must come forth to do battle in the Hunger Games that are broadcast all over the world.  The winner of these games gets fame and fortune while the losers face death.  With 12 districts this brings the amount of players up to 24.  The names are drawn through a lottery.  And while no one anticipates getting picked they prepare anyway.  Katniss's sister is drawn for The Hunger Games and so Katniss decides to go in her place.  Leaving behind all she knows... which is hunting in District 12 with her friend Gale.  The other kid who was drawn is a guy named Peeta.  Both of our heroes are 16 years old, both will participate in The Hunger Games, while being helped along by a man named Haymitch, who isn't entirely stable.  In fact he's often a drunk who has little faith in those he's supposed to help win the games.  It is when Katniss and Peeta both show him they want to take things seriously that he wises up and actually helps.

The children are taken to the capital, however, and we see that life in the capital is grand.  They have amazing food, amazing costumes and people who are there to help each participant in the Games make a lasting impression.  They all get a minor introduction, interviews and training for the games.  Yet the most interesting aspect of the book happens to be the characters Katniss and Peeta.  As Katniss runs through her mind thinking about her family and her best friend Gale, Peeta has different thoughts going through his mind.  The two are loosely acquainted, but Peeta is not shy about admitting his feelings for Katniss. 

When the games begin is when the book really begins to pick up.  All the 24 "tributes" as they're called, are thrown into the arena where there are weapons scattered about for their use, and where they may or may not be hunted by other beast.  The Game makers have control of the arena, however, and can manipulate things however they wish in order to draw characters together or to add a bit more excitement to the mix.  There are adversaries and unexpected allies that Katniss will meet in her battle to win the games.  Keeping allies doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of the games, however.  And thus Katniss has to be weary at every turn.  There's only one person she really can trust: Peeta.  But sooner or later the two will have to battle, won't they?  For Katniss it's about surviving, for Peeta it's about romance.  

We'll stop there in our summary.  I wouldn't want to give too much away.  The Hunger Games actually has a pretty simplistic setup with some fairly good characters.  It's pacing is good and the situations that Katniss and Peeta find themselves in is rather fun to endure.  Keep in mind, however, The Hunger Games isn't a love story.  It's been branded as a Science Fiction and Fantasy story, but it's a bit more adventurous than that.  Life in the Capital definitely gives it a big Science Fiction edge because the place is technologically advanced.  But this is Young Adult, and as a result there's nothing too complex about it, but Suzanne Collins writes in such a way that she never comes off as patronizing to her targeted audience.  If there's one problem most young adult writers have it's this idea that they someone have to be "cool" and whatnot.  Suzanne Collins doesn't appear to have that in mind.  Rather she appears to want to tell a genuine story.  She doesn't worry about slang or making sure her teenagers are acting like teenagers, but she doesn't ignore the experience of young adulthood either.  Let us take Katniss, the stories main character.  While Peeta has feelings for her, she spends a great deal of the story trying to figure out if she feels the same way and thinking about her friend Gale who has been her hunting companion in District 12 for years.  She wrestles with her feelings for both of them, even in the midst of the Hunger Games.  She's confused.  And why shouldn't she be?  She is, after all, 16 years old.  It's these little sprinkles of character development that help The Hunger Games become more than just a story about a bunch of kids fighting in an arena.  Yet for what it's worth, there's hardly anything romantic about the story at all.  There are moments, but The Hunger Games seems a bit more obsessed with the fantasy violence than it does any actual romance.

This is by far the most amusing part about The Hunger Games.  Not the weird obsession with violence, but the fact that for a book as violent as this is (kids getting speared through the gut, another who gets her head smashed in, and a character or two literally stung to death by wasps to give you some examples) turned to feel like a fantasy.  While some of the characters die in graphic ways, Collins is very tame in describing it.  I'm not always too quick to jump to what an author is trying to say without looking into it first, but if I had to guess with Collins, it would be that kids aren't quite as stupid or naive as most adults would seem to think.  Within this book these teenagers aren't stupid or unaware of what they're doing.  As I said before, Collins seems to reach out to her younger audience, but isn't patronizing them.  There's hardly any innocence within any character in the book.  And while it's rather violent, Collins is able to describe the acts in such a way that we can swallow them.  Imagine if you will, that you are watching a film and just when someones head is about to be cut off, there's a hard cut to the main character watching, rather than seeing the head severed.  That's similar to how Collins does it.  We're seeing the world through Katniss's eyes. 

And as the book progresses Katniss and Peeta begin to realize that what's happening is wrong.  That The Hunger Games in and of themselves are wrong. 

If there was any major problem with The Hunger Games it would be that the book ends too soon, and on a major cliff hanger, at that.  Granted, we already know that Collins is making this a trilogy, but the book ends almost abruptly.  It's easy to feel dissonance when you're finished reading the book.  It ends but you don't get the feeling it concluded.  It's almost like a teaser for the second book rather than any sort of real ending.  A lot of books do this sort of thing, but few leave you with the sort of awkwardness that The Hunger Games does. 

Nevertheless, the journey getting there is more fun than you might expect.  It's not all entirely what you'd expect when you think of a book that involves a ton of people getting thrown into an arena and having to kill one another.  It's hardly barbaric or even graphic.  For the most part it's tame and even heartfelt.  But most of all, it's entertaining.

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September 02, 2009
Great review! Have you read Battle Royale?
 
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More The Hunger Games reviews
review by . December 20, 2012
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 …
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.                 …
review by . November 20, 2010
Dystopia, Big Brother and post-apocalypse are themes that have been included in novels so often that it could well be a life's work for a librarian to prepare an exhaustive catalogue of titles. But, in terms of quality, the devil is in the details and Suzanne Collins has justifiably taken the world by storm. Her novel, THE HUNGER GAMES, inspired by the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, is an innovative, dare I say unique, young adult twist on the recurring themes of violence, cruely, despair, …
review by . April 19, 2012
Told from the perspective of the main character, Katniss, THE HUNGER GAMES takes place in a future where the United States as we know it no longer exists. The book never explains exactly what happened, but years earlier there was some sort of economic collapse and global catastrophe. In the aftermath, what was once the continent of North America is now a country called Panem. In what is explained in THE HUNGER GAMES, Panem was controlled by a massive Capitol City that ruled over thirteen separate …
review by . December 16, 2010
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
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … 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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Details

ISBN-10: 0439023521
ISBN-13: 978-0439023528
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Teens
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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1984 (British first edition)

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