In celebration of the Catching Fire movie that comes out November 22, I’ll be reviewing the Hunger Games trilogy this weekend (the reason I’m not doing it the weekend of the movie release is because I’m planning to have Series Week V around that time)!
The Hunger Games is written by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2008 by Scholastic. It is, in my opinion, the book that catapulted dystopian fiction to the top of the YA map, and the book that set the stage/formula for almost all future dystopian YA novels. Collins’ website can be found here.
Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult, Survival
“In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”
“Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!”
“You are a fool,” Haymitch says in disgust. “Do you think he hurt you? That boy just gave you something you could never achieve on your own.”
“He made me look weak!” I say.
“He made you looked desirable! And let’s face it, you can use all the help you can get in that department. You were about as romantic as dirt until he said he wanted you. Now they all do. You’re all they’re talking about. The star-crossed lovers from District Twelve!” says Haymitch.
“But we’re not star-crossed lovers!” I say.
I know what to do. I move into range and give myself three arrows to get the job done. I place my feet carefully, block out the rest of the world as I take meticulous aim. The first arrow tears through the side of the bag near the top, leaving a split in the burlap. The second widens it to a gaping hole. I can see the first apple teetering when I let the third arrow go, catching the torn flap of burlap and ripping it from the bag.
For a moment, everything seems frozen in time. Then the apples spill to the ground and I’m blown backward into the air.
Warnings: Violence, death.
Recommended Age Range: 16+
What I Liked:
Ah, The Hunger Games. I got introduced to Collins through her Underland Chronicles, and I liked her enough to start paying attention to what she came out with next. That’s how I read The Hunger Games, and loved it. I haven’t read it in a while (since Mockingjay came out), and I could only really remember what they included in the movie (which I enjoyed thoroughly and thought they did a good job of taking a first person POV and turning it into third, although Katniss’ motivations are not as clear), so I was excited to read this book once again and see if I still enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. And, I did!
Reading this book again, knowing what’s going to happen in the next two…it really makes little things pop out at you. For example, Katniss’ continuous remarks that she will never have children because she doesn’t want to bring them into the Hunger Games world. Remember that, because it will be important later (and I will talk about it when I review Mockingjay). Also, Katniss’ thoughts about Gale while she’s in the arena, setting up the inevitable love triangle (which, when I first read, I didn’t much care about because I was unused/ignorant to the dearth of love triangles in YA fiction. I still say that The Hunger Games is what made that so popular).
The action in this book is so seamlessly done, with just the right amount of downtime to relieve the tension. It really just keeps you at the edge of your seat from the time they enter the arena until they leave it.
I wonder how long Haymitch and Cinna have been planning on rebelling, and when they first saw that Katniss would be an excellent vehicle to fuel that rebellion. It’s incredibly obvious that they are milking her as a symbol for all their worth (or maybe that was just Haymitch’s way of keeping her alive…?). And Katniss is exactly the right type of symbol to use, because she isn’t unaware of it, or against it. She works with them and helps them, in her own way, through her actions.
When I first read the book, I knew that Katniss would survive and inevitably win. It’s so obvious, simply because Katniss is the first-person narrator. What I didn’t expect, however, was the twist at the end with the nightlock and Peeta. I really thought that Peeta would die, or something. And Collins uses this twist really well because through it, she conveys not only Katniss’ feelings and character, but her desire to stop the Capitol’s injustice, which will in turn fuel the eventual rebellion.
Another thing I noticed is that certain characters stand for certain things. Peeta represents goodness and hope. Gale represents familiarity (in this book). Prim represents innocence. Remembering these representations will really give a whole new meaning to what Collins is saying in the series as a whole. More on that in the next two books (but more probably Mockingjay).
What I Didn’t Like:
It actually took me a little bit to get into this book simply because of the sentences and the writing. It was a little choppy and didn’t quite flow. Once I got into the book, however, I stopped noticing it.
It is not pleasant to read about teenagers killing each other.
The Hunger Games is fast-paced and action-packed, and Collins doesn’t try to disguise what she is trying to show. Some of the set-up and themes that she is using in this book will come into play much more in the next two books, and, from what I know of the ending, will really give a complete picture of Katniss’ development as a character and the evolution of her thoughts and beliefs. For now, though, we are only seeing the surface, and can only sit back and enjoy the ride. A wonderful, wonderful book that I highly recommend simply because of the discussions that can be held about it, as well as for its entertainment (read: nail-biting) value and depth.
You can buy this book here: The Hunger Games (Book 1)
And the movie here: The Hunger Games
Coming Up Next: Catching Fire on Saturday, Mockingjay on Sunday, and then back to the regular schedule on Tuesday with The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison