The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I came to the Hunger Games series late in its popularity. Way late. Less than a month's time to the release of the highly anticipated film adaptation (an adaptation written in part by Suzanne Collins herself, one of the credited writers of the script) and I've known about the series less than a year, and having only read the series a few months prior to this review.
My own lack of trendiness aside, the books have seen a meteoric surge in popularity since the publication of this first volume in 2008. It was nothing short of an instant hit from almost the first moment. Set in a dystopian future where North America has been split into 12 districts by an evil government known only as The Capitol after a devastating war. The 12 districts are punished by being kept desperately poor – and once a year they must each select one boy and one girl by lottery to do battle in a grand gladiatorial arena known as the Hunger Games. These twenty-four children, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen, must fight to the death, and there can be only one winner. When Katniss Everdeen’s twelve-year-old sister’s name is drawn for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to take her place, and is thus drawn into a horrifying and desperate fight for survival against the odds, the elements, and her fellow, bloodthirsty competitors.
The first thing that struck me about the book, beyond the smart, polished prose and the immediately compelling protagonist Katniss, was the depth of insight into human life which Collins so deftly exhibits. Almost from the first page, as with Rowling's Potter novels, the reader is struck with a sense that here is something special—that often ineffable quality which so many writers lust to possess but which is rarely achieved, that this book in some strange way resonates with the deepest realities of human existence, or at least of human existence at this time in history. Critics of pop culture will sneer (when will they not?) that the popularity of the books is due to various factors like declining education or “mass obsession,” but there really is something here beyond the surface, illusive and difficult to articulate yet nevertheless no less present for all that.
Katniss' journey is many things, tapping into the archetypal mythical journey outlined by Joseph Campbell, a genuine pyschological depth of the toll of participation in such a games. Reflection on ethical and moral questions regarding murder and self-defense, on the impact of such a Games in a social and communal pyschology. It is hard, coming away from the books, to shake the feeling that these Games are a ritual bloodletting with quasi-religious undertones, much like the Roman gladiatorial arena where the ritual murder of Remus by Romulus (which allowed for the building of Rome on the atonement of his blood) is recapitulated in the death of each gladiator. That somehow the Games are an attempt to cover the guilty conscience of the hedonistic Capitol by the atonement of blood while the rest of Panem dwells in deep poverty (the work of Rene Girard on scapegoating is vital reading here).
The book is also fundamentally about the transformation of Katniss herself into a fully-formed human being by way of trial by fire. Mythological and historical references abound. The “trial by arena battle” is as old as the sands of the sea, of course, and the name of this civilization, Panem, comes from the old Latin expression panem et circuses, that is, “bread and circuses,” an expression used by ancient writers to illustrate the fixation of the Roman citizens on food (hedonistic gluttony) and circuses, or entertainment. Such a name is perfectly suited for this dystopian future eerily like our own present. We in the West are the Capitol, a comparison made more disquieting by the intentional allusion back to Huxley's Brave New World, one of the first dystopians in which the people were enslaved, not to a totalitarian state, but to their own pleasures, caught in a vast corporatocracy even though they were not even aware of its presence. The best science fiction is not about the future, but about revealing the present, and in this The Hunger Games matches the definition perfectly.
Collins is a fine writer worthy of her craft, and the book is compelling all the way through. I don't usually stay up late reading novels, but this time I did. It is a massive whirlwind of enjoyment and insight. It does not pull its punches, and for this reason The Hunger Games is also not free of controversy. Some religious groups have denounced the books as unacceptable for its presentation of violence and for the ever-present theme of looming death. Such readings are in fact misreadings, these groups having missed the obvious point of the series, which is that violence, while very real, is not a viable response. Katniss throughout the book avoids killing where she can, and only does so regretfully, in self-defense. The books are about how violence and vengeance destroys and lowers human life. Far from being a pro-violence or blood-letting message, the books end up being a strong anti-war tract by subverting the honor-warrior-noble-battle trope common in many stories today. Ultimately, the books are about self-sacrifice and the ability of love to overcome the might of totalitarianism, cruelty, and hatred. I do not believe I can recommend them highly enough.
9.3/10, AT Ross
I have no hard and fast rule concerning whether to read a book before seeing the cinematic adaptation, but having seen the trailer for The Hunger Games and deduced the nature of the story being told, I was determined to read the book first.
It’s still a while until the movie hits, but I absolutely loved the book.
Suzanne Collins has written something really special in ‘The Hunger Games’ and I would not hesitate to recommend this to people of almost any age.
The story can be pretty easily determined by watching any of the number of trailers for the movie, but imagine a post-civil war era America who have lost any track of their heritage. 12 districts exist to service the Capitol, and as a result of a long-gone uprising, the Capitol now forces the districts to provide 2 tributes each to compete in a ruthless battle-to-the-death to remind them of their situation.
These are the Hunger Games, and the focus of the whole book (though the book does not necessarily solely take place within the Hunger Games).
The characters are wonderful to read, if maybe a little two-dimensional. But this two-dimensionality only exists so that the characters could be read and understood by readers of any age, but through any lack of talent on the author’s part.
I have heard it said that this series is a little Twilight-ish in terms of the ‘emotions’ and focus on female characters, but I found no evidence of this. In fact, I found Katniss Everdeen’s slow and never realised understanding of her feelings quite evocative of my own time as a teenager.
The world around the story is quite wonderful, and leaves me with an endless number of questions: what aren’t the people being told; who is still alive; what is going to happen next? The sheer brutality of it is very fresh, untold in other books, and especially impressive in this one as it is told in a way that is not gruesome for the sake of gruesome; sexy for the sake of sexy. What happens all seems very natural.
You may see this book on the shelves of a children or teenager’s section of the bookstore and shy away from it. Don’t. You’ll be missing out. Suzanne Collins has managed to replicate the wonderful breadth and width of all-ages storytelling without cutting any of the corners off. The Hunger Games was a simply magnificent read.
9.0/10, Joshua S Hill
Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
This Young Adult book is set in the future long after North America has been demolished, in a nation known as Panem. The nation is separated into twelve districts, which surround the Capitol. It was formerly thirteen until the thirteenth was destroyed by the rulers of this world. Every year in order for the rulers to flex their might, a boy and girl aged between twelve and eighteen are randomly chosen to represent their district in a reality TV show. However, this show has a twist. The show is to the death and only one winner will survive. This book follows Katniss Everdeen as she steps in to enter this game....
This is a well written and engaging novel which sees the likes of Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity taken to a disturbingly, yet possible conclusion. I have recently become a fan of teenage fiction and this is one of the better reads of this genre. Yes, the story is not unique and has been seen in the films ‘The Running Man’ and ‘The Condemned’. Although, it is the addition of teenagers, playing the central characters, which gives this book bite.
We follow the exploits of Kat, a sixteen year old from District Twelve – the poorest of the districts – as she embarks on the journey of her life. Kat is already a hunter and her life to date has already instilled into her a fight to survive attitude, and a steely character. It is these characteristics which will stand her in good stead in this shocking tale.
The characterisation is stronger in this than other YA books and is more adult in its approach. The pace is fast, always an emotional roller coaster and highly descriptive at the same time, especially in the handling of it’s hunting scenes. Occasionally, it can be too descriptive and sometimes this gets in the way of the plot and prose though not to a detrimental effect.
There were times when I was reminded of ‘Enders Game’ and times when I was reminded of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Yes, it does have a love theme running through it. However, this adds to the story and is paramount in driving the characters’ motivations throughout the book.
This is a book which will be enjoyed a lot by teenagers, as well as adults, to which it will have a certain resonance, having witnessed the explosion and possibilities of reality TV this last decade. It is a strange phenomenon in modern culture and hopefully this is not it’s natural conclusion. This book is also followed by two subsequent books, which will be reviewed in the near future.
All in all this is a book worthy of reading, and while it is possible, I guess you will have to suspend your imagination, as I personally cannot envisage a society where parents would allow this to happen. At least I do not want to live in that dystopian society if it does... Enjoy...
9.0/10, Allan Fisher
Cat Fitzpatrick from UK
I'm very late to the party with this one, with all the fuss around the film adaptation probably putting me off a bit, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally picked this up. I literally just sat down and read it straight through - it was gripping and entertaining, and I really liked the concept and main character. It is one of those novels where a very clear image appears in your head whilst you read it, and I'm looking forward to reading the following books, but the pace sometimes dropped a little with a very heavy focus on what Katniss was eating. Obviously it's a survival story and I do like realism in my books, but this can go a bit far and I don't need to know about every bit of cracker she eats. Overall I would definitly recommend this.
Tunaisthebestfishtoeat from UK
I really enjoyed this book and due to the easy flow of action it became a very quick read. For those who have read this, I would like to suggest the book 'Divergent' as it has a similar theme. Trust me,if you enjoyed The Hunger games then you won't be able to put Divergent down. About The Hunger Games, I would suggest you definetely read the book BEFORE you watch the film! Good book 8/10 for original content and well formed characters.
From from UK
I really, really, really did love the books when I read them. They were page-turning, absorbing, fast-paced, and adventurous, and I often found myself sneaking them under the sheets along with a flashlight. However, it was when I looked back on them that I realized they weren't really anything special. The writing was pretty bad, and to be honest the whole first-person present thing made it kind of hard to read. Nevertheless, if you're simply looking for entertainment and nothing to really think over or look deeply into, it would be a lie to tell you its not a great choice.
Stella Mellark from Mexico
I just love the book. It completes my life. In some way I feel like Katniss, she tries to survive and protect her little sister Primrose. Maybe I am obsessed with The Hunger Games, cause, you have to see my room and my school stuffs. Aand i want to say thanks to Suzanne Collins, for writting "The Hunger Games".
Reece from England
I loved this book, I have read the other two books and seen the film four times. It is by far the best book I have ever read.
Bella from Brisbane
As I am only 13 this book came to me through Taylor Swift as she wrote 2 songs for the film. I came across it and started to get into it and after 3 days I could not put the book down. It was just amazing!!! I love it so much that I recently did my English oral on the film. I say, if anyone is into a killer of a book you NEED TO READ THIS!!!!!!
Stefani from Istanbul, Turkey
It was extraoridinary! It was so great I couldn't put it down. It was one of the best books I have ever read and that's saying a lot since I've read tons. It was amazing and it changed my perspective about life. Definitely worth the time!
Katniss from Holland
I love these books. Katniss (I have the same name, seriously) isn't the nicest person in Panem, but how she loves her sister and her friend Gale is fascinating. I love how she never wanted to be a heroine, but she is though.
Ryan from Canberra
This isn't the best written story I have read, Katniss is not a particularly sympathetic / relatable main character, and yet I could not put this book down. The Hunger Games has a way of getting into your head, it is an example of some very clever story telling that explores some very dark themes, and despite not being able to fully connect with the main character, you can still admire her skills and determination.
Gary from Canada
It was a hell of a fun read, though I could not help but feel a little disentangled with some of her dialogue throughout the book. It's either in their world kids are pretty stupid or she doesn't realize how smart they really are. I also found that it was stolen from the Battle Royale comics, which I found to be much more heart rendering and nervousing but nonetheless, her vigorous spirit in writing this tale kept me reading throughout and I rather enjoyed the action.
Fan from South Africa
COULD NOT put it down, nor Catching Fire but Mockingjay lost the plot a bit. I got a bit confused when they actually made it to the Capitol. At any rate, I will be trying Ms. Collins other works as well. GREAT READ!!
This book is great... I couldn't put it down, need I say more? There's no way anyone could get me away from reading it.... I read all three and the last one took me by surprise... this book is drama, confusion, action, and most of all the best love triangle I've ever seen in my life.... I would lose my breath when I turned the page and something completely random would happen... I LOVED IT!!!!!!!
Anke from USA
This book took me by surprise. It has a great story and the pace is fast. It is fascinating and truly a page turner. Highly recommended.
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