The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
This month, my face-to-face book club is discussing both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. I just found out that I won’t be able to attend the meeting. I’m so bummed. I have all of these thoughts about the books that I want to share! So, in addition to a review, I’m going to have a mini discussion here. Feel free to chime in! I’ll post a similar review of Catching Fire tomorrow.
Katniss lives in District 12 with her mother and younger sister. After the death of her father, Katniss supported her family in the mining district by illegally hunting outside the boundaries of District 12. What was the United States has become Panem – the rich Capitol and the twelve districts, relegated to poverty, hard work, and subservience to the Capitol as punishment for an uprising seventy-four years ago. Part of the districts’ ongoing punishment is the Hunger Games. Each year in a ceremony called Reaping Day, one teenage boy and one teenage girl are selected from each district to be “tributes” and placed in an arena for a fight to the death. The Games are broadcast through the Capital, as entertainment, and the districts, as a warning. The winner of the Games is considered a celebrity, is given a large house to live in along with an ample salary, and his or her district is showered with extra food for an entire year.
Amazingly, the above summary summarizes maybe the first fifteen pages! And it doesn’t slow down from there. This was a captivating, fast-paced, interesting book. The plot, by far the book’s biggest strength, is innovative and interesting. The pacing is breath-taking. The writing carries the reader along without effort. And, yet, I felt like it was so fast and so adventure-packed that it was somehow missing something. Perhaps some depth, both in character development and in exploration of underlying themes. That is really my only complaint though. The Hunger Games is one wild ride that I’m glad I got on.
Below are my thoughts on the book in a kind of discussion form. Some minor spoilers are included, so beware.
- Stars – I gave this one four stars, rather than five. Largely because, while I was caught up in the telling of it, it didn’t quite reach life-altering. It was, at the end of the day, a really good story.
- Influences – The atmosphere in District 12 and even Katniss’s friendships with Gale and Peeta remind me a lot of The City of Ember. The “reaping” reminded me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”
- Characters – I liked Katniss. I didn’t love her, though. I liked her spunkiness, her assumption of the care of her family, and her hunting skills. However, her character seemed uneven. While she was willing to sacrifice herself for her sister, she really seemed to lack empathy for most of the other characters, especially her mother, Peeta, and Haymitch. As for the supporting cast, I loved the brief time we got to spend with Rue. I feel like she was the replacement for Prim, whom we never really got to know. And, of course, I loved Cinna and his amazing designs.
- Gale v. Peeta – I may be out on my own here, but for some reason I really tended to side with Peeta. This may be in large part because Gale is absent from 90% of this book, but Peeta seemed more real, more sincere in his affections for Katniss. (See my similar reaction to Jacob v. Edward in New Moon.) It does set up an interesting conflict though – the bond forged between Katniss and Peeta under threat of immediate death versus the bond forged between Katniss and Gale under threat of a slower death.
- Inventions – I loved the mockingjays! This really goes to show Collins’s creativity. It reminded me a bit of J.K. Rowling – inventing something that seems like background and BAM! it plays a major part in the rest of the series.
- The Games – The reality show aspect of the Games was shocking and yet sort of made sense. I loved that each set of tributes is given a stylist and has to undergo interviews. If they make it to the top eight, their friends and family get interviewed as well. Sound familiar? It seems to me that the Hunger Games has quite a lot in common with Survivor and numerous other reality shows. I don’t think I’m reaching too far to see this book as a commentary on our current society and our increasingly morbid desire to see “reality” on TV.
- Violence – I have to say I was a little shocked by the violence. It wasn’t R-rated, but a very definite PG-13. Beware.
I read this in a few hours on vacation. Better make sure you have several uninterrupted hours before starting this one. You won’t want to put it down.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins [rating:4]
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