Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: The Hunger Games

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult/Futuristic
Series: Hunger Games Trilogy/Book 1

Published: October 2008

*Very Minor Spoiler*

From the inside cover flap ~


Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

If you haven't read The Hunger Games you really need to, it's that good! Yes, this is young adult for grades 6 and up per Scholastic's website. It's a story for anyone who simply wants to read an amazing tale of loss and hope, fear and courage. Of friendship and family. Collins doesn't pull any punches with the reality of life in District 12 nor does she take the easy way out when describing the deaths that occur in the Hunger Games. They don't all occur off the page but the reader gets up close and personal with what these kids go through and die for. It's not always an easy book to read but it was always a compelling story that grabs hold doesn't let go even after the games are over.

Katniss Everdeen is the head of her household. Her mother has taken a long time recovering from the death of her husband in a mining accident and has left most of the responsibilities to Katniss. Katniss still misses her father terribly and keeps his advice and wisdom in her heart and mind to help her through the tough times. She also has a younger sister Prim, who is 12 years old which makes this the first year that she is eligible for the games. Prim is sweet, kind and gentle and you can't help but feel protective of her. Besides her mother and sister, Gale, a local boy, is the other person Katniss cares about and is close to.

Gale is a good friend of Katniss and someone she trusts. They both have huge responsibilities when it comes to their families. Gale is 18 years old and the oldest child in his family. His father is also deceased, leaving Gale to provide for his mother and three younger siblings. To provide for their families Gale and Katniss hunt in the woods beyond District 12. To access the woods they must get past the fence that blocks off the woods from District 12. If they are caught, they will be punished but it's a chance they must take to keep their families fed.

I liked what we saw of Gale. His feeling for Katniss were genuine, caring for her as a person, not because it was easier to hunt with her help but because he truly cared for her. He also agrees to watch over Prim when Katniss must leave and she knows he'll be there waiting for her if she returns. There wasn't too much of Gale but he was with Katniss in her thoughts during the game. She doesn't have many people in her life she cares about but Gale is one of them.

The boy chosen from District 12 for the games is someone that Katniss only knows from school. She has never talked to him but has seen him in the district. Peeta is the baker's son and is something of an enigma. Katniss isn't sure if he's looking out only for himself or if he would be willing to help her during the games. Ulitmately there is only one winner but alliances are formed in the beginning if only to reduce the ranks of the players. What can I say about Peeta without giving too much away? He's an interesting character that never once left me bored. He kept me engaged in the story and curious as to his feelings towards Katniss. :)

When Katniss is taken to Capitol for the games it's like another world from where she came from. The setting is the United States but completely different than what we know. Katniss is from the area we know as the Appalachians, part of the U.S. where coal mining is the main source of employment. She comes from one of the poorest districts and has never seen the splendor that is Capitol. Capitol is in the Rocky Mountains and maintains it's isolation from the rest of the country by using those mountains as a physical barrier between it and the twelve districts.

The Capitol is a place of beauty and plenty. Where people have the best of everything and never worry about going hungry. Many of the things that are commonplace in the Capitol are things that Katniss has never seen or experienced. And the people she meets are just as different as the city they live in. The games are the biggest entertainment event of the year and the enthusiasm the people show for the games is both overwhelming and offensive. Knowing that only one child out of 24 will live through the games while cheering on their favorites is sickening to me. But there are things going on behind the scenes that we only get a sense of. The rulers of this new America rule through fear and punishment. They don't allow for even the hint of rebellion. The people of the districts are afraid to speak out against anything that the Capitol and it's rulers do for fear of severe reprimand.

As a heroine Katniss is one of my absolute favorites. She's a survivor in a world were many barely exist. She has such determination that she infuses that determination into those around her. Her love for her mother and little sister is only part of her strength. Her loyalty and kindness make themselves known even in the most dire of circumstances. What she is able to do during the games only strengthened my feelings for her. The games did not break her but they did push her into doing things she didn't think she was capable of.

The games are meant to test the participants, to push them beyond their limits and show their true selves. I think the ultimate purpose of these games is to show the power of the Capitol to the districts. The fact that the districts have no choice as to whether they participate and they have no choice but must watch the games as they are played and their children die. The games are made to maximize the drama and to shock the audience. Katniss is aware of this and hates the fact that she has to fight and kill to live. She doesn't want to get to know the other kids, knowing that some will most likely die before her and some she might have to kill. But her inherit goodness can not be suppressed.

There were scenes, most especially during the games, that left me in tears. Fearing for these children and knowing that they will most likely die was very emotional and difficult to stop reading. I wanted to find out what happens but at the same time I was afraid to find out who it happens to. Like I said before, The Hunger Games isn't always an easy read but it is a very good read. Obviously it's not a lite, day at the beach read but an edge of your seat, emotional read.

The Hunger Games is one of the best novels I've read in a very long time (and I've had some very good reads lately). The emotions that Katniss, Peeta and all the other characters evoked in me ran the gamut from sadness, horror, frustration, hope, despair, anger and love. I was left with a need to get to know these kids, these fascinating people, better.

Information on author Suzanne Collins can be found at her website. Scholastic also has a bunch of info on The Hunger Games and the second novel in the trilogy, Catching Fire. Included on Scholastic's site are those "look inside the book" features which I find interesting. Warning - there is music on the Catching Fire page and if you're like me you find that annoying so consider yourself warned. :)

Rating: A+


  1. Okay, I've been circling around this book, but :

    "If you haven't read The Hunger Games you really need to, it's that good!"

    Really!!! Yikes, maybe I had better jump on. I usually stay away from YA, but hmmm. I didn't read your review, worried about the spoiler.

  2. CJ ~ I've only read a few YA's and I'm not sure I would consider this strictly YA. The main characters are teens but I would consider the conflict adult. The local libray should have it since it's so popular. :)

    The spoiler is that I named the boy chosen from District 12. Chances are you've probably seen his name around blogland but some people don't want any spoilers at all. :)

  3. Hi all...
    I am playing games on pc and i like to more about gaming...
    I like this article because it's about gaming...

  4. Leslie - I have this book sitting in my TBR pile. I have been meaning to get to it, but I have been hesitating because it is YA and I don't normally read that genre. From what I have read from your review, it sounds like I need to just drop everything and pick it up! Thanks for the review. I will get to Hunger Games pronto!

  5. Jill ~ I don't read much YA either but this one got such great reviews from adult reviewers I had to try it. Very happy I did. :)

  6. I've been seeing this book (well the next one) all around blogland lately... but now seeing your review, I think I should give it a try :D

  7. nath ~ seeing Catching Fire everywhere got me to finally read The Hunger Games. Can you tell I really liked it? :)