The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games Trilogy)

THE HUNGER GAMES (2008 Scholastic) by Suzanne Collins is a YA novel, available in hardcover for list price of $17.99. There are two digital copies available from B&N (Nook) and Amazon (Kindle) for $9.00 at the time of this writing.

THE HUNGER GAMES is the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. The story centers around a futuristic dystopian society that’s told in first person narrative by Katniss Everdeen, the sixteen year old teen living in District 12. The basic plot of the story shows how teens are forced to take part in a yearly event where they must fight to the death in what is known as THE HUNGER GAMES.

First let me say that readers seem to be obsessed with this series. Everywhere you look, there’s someone talking about how much they loved The Hunger Games. The B&N website as well as Amazon seem to average about five stars each. Clearly this book is well favored by many. Then recently I hear talk of a movie. That did it. I went off to find this book and read it once and for all. I may be the last person on earth to do so.

After the destruction of what was once known as North America, gave rise to a new country now called Panem. The Capitol is the ruling city. It is a “wealthy city” surrounded by districts that are struggling with food shortages and the scarcity of natural resources. Almost a century ago, the 13 districts rose up against the Capitol but they lost. District 13 was obliterated, gone, poof, out of here, destroyed. The Capitol now represents a symbol of fear and societal oppression.

As punishment for their defiance, the Capitol decided to create a televised reality show where each year, two people from each district, a boy and a girl aged 12 to 18, are picked in a lottery as tributes to participate in The Hunger Games. The games are broadcast live around the world and it is to the death. The reward for several weeks of near hunger, bruises and near death experiences is wealth and celebrity.

To be chosen for the Hunger Games is akin to being given a death sentence in District 12 especially when you consider that there are a few Districts with teens who volunteer and train for these games every year. These are what they term “career tributes.” So you have: one event. 24 tributes. One survivor. The Hunger Games.

If you think the Hunger Games is bad, wait till you read how life is for Katniss Everdeen, the young teen who is the main protagnoist & provider for her mother and sister. When her father died, Katniss had to step up because her mother gave up on life, leaving her and her sister to fend for themselves. Instead of starving to death, Katniss takes up her bow and arrows and hunts for food even though poaching is a punishable offense by death. This world is so abysmally bad one wonders if the tributes had the better deal: to be put out of their misery.

When the story opens, it’s the day of the Reaping. It’s mandatory that everyone in each district attend the lottery. Katniss finds herself included in the 74th Annual Hunger Games after she hears her sister’s name being called. Her sister Prim is only 12 years old and was only entered once for the lottery but as fate would have it, she gets picked. Many in the district already think that it’s unfair for a child that young to participate. But in steps Katniss, though, with her heart in her throat, walking up to the stage to voluntarily take her sister’s place.

Accompanying Katniss from District 12 is Peeta Mellark. He’s the son of a baker. Katniss remembers him as being the one who gave her the burned bread when she was having a “hollow day” where she explains that no matter how much you eat you’re still left with a hollow stomach. Anyway, Peeta slips her the burned bread when she shows up looking for scraps and his mother beats him for it. Since that time, Katniss has felt she owed him a debt.

Off to the Capitol Katniss and Peeta go, where they meet up with the other 22 tributes. They are dressed up, pampered and interviewed for the Hunger Games. The whole event is treated like a big celebration with camera’s and sponsors and such. The jovial mood of the games didn’t quite mesh with the “fight to the death” motif. It was just really weird.

The story gets interesting when Peeta blurts out during an interview that he’s been secretly in love with Katniss since forever. The reader and Katniss don’t know what to make of that news because Peeta comes off looking as if he is saying all the right things to win himself sponsors. It’s not bad PR to be portrayed as star-crossed lovers though and many in the audience feel for their “ill-fated love.” Katniss is conflicted and confused by Peeta’s feelings for her, however. She feels that he’s acting but I believe that Peeta is honest about his feelings for her.

Once the story moves past the tributes parading around the Capitol with camera’s following their every move, they are eventually put in the arena and that’s when the story gets bloody good. It gets brutal pretty quick with a high number of casualties on the first day. The action is almost non-stop, too.

In between staying alive and running for their lives, the author manages to stick in some really nice moments between Katniss and Peeta. But where does Gale fit in the picture? Well, Gale is Katniss’s hunting partner back home in District 12. We meet him briefly at the start of the story but despite their brief scenes together, there are hints at maybe something more than friendship going on there. Yes, this seems to be devolve into some sort of triangle but I know who I want Katniss to end up with. YMMV.

THE HUNGER GAMES was an interesting novel and almost unputdownable too. The story is character driven and kinda tugged on the heart strings a little. I was drawn to a couple of characters, namely Rue, a young 12 year old slip of a girl who gets picked as a tribute for this year’s games. She reminds Katniss of her sister Prim back home. The two become allies but can you really be allies when only one person can win?

The world the author created here is cruel and unjust where people starve to death and parents are helpless in protecting their children from this yearly event. There is the ever present censorship where speaking out against the government can cause risk to you and your family. There’s a scene where Peeta privately tells Katniss that he doesn’t want the Capitol to break him & make him into something he’s not. Could this be the start of dissent? Maybe even the start of another uprising? I hope so.

Wrapping this up, THE HUNGER GAMES was an enjoyable read. This hardcover book was actually a gift from a reader (thank you). My grade is a B. I’ve read this type of premise before & enjoyed it with Battle Royale. My verdict: tough, brutal yet fascinating storyline.

Other notes: this is my contribution to the TBR Challenge 2010 for the month of March. Please make sure to visit the other participants! When I wrote this review, I made sure that I didn’t mistakenly spell Katniss as “Katnip.” Okay. That’s all. Thanks.

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14 Responses to The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games Trilogy)

  1. EJ says:

    Great Review! I have enjoyed this book a lot too! I am done reading the second book (Catching Fire) as well. Can’t wait to see how the story will unfold in book 3 (Mockingjay).

  2. SarahT says:

    Thanks for reviewing this. I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to try it. My TBR review will be late this month but I hope to have it up next week. I have an excellent excuse, though: Jo Nesbo’s ‘Nemesis’!

  3. janicu says:

    I’m curious about this one too. Ever since BEA last year when EVERYONE was talking about it and I had no clue what this book was. And amazon has over 600 reviews!

    I liked this review. 🙂

  4. Leslie says:

    Great review! This was one of my favorite reads of last year. I had a hard time putiing it down. Going into the games and knowing there’s only suppose to be one winner and we want Katniss to win but… at what cost? Like you said, very brutal.

  5. Angie says:

    Hey Keishon, glad you gave this one a go. I think the second one is even better. Such fun reads. 🙂

  6. Maili says:

    It’s not as *good* as I expected, but it was so readable and as you say, unputdownable. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t for Battle Royale (I read the novel but haven’t yet read the comic) and my dislike for the hype around reality TV. BTW, I already read Catching Fire. 😀

  7. Avid Reader says:

    @Maili: Have Catching Fire up next after my mystery. While I enjoyed The Hunger Games, no, it didn’t blow me away.

    @Angie: Great incentive being that Catching Fire is even better. Plan to read it soon.

    @Leslie: I know I felt so conflicted over people that I liked being possibly killed. I hate that.

    @janicu: Thanks! It’s unreal how many positive reviews this book has received thus far. Because of that, my expectations were really high.
    @SarahT: I wouldn’t put down Jo Nesbo for this book! Ha. Can’t wait to see how you enjoy his series.
    @EJ: Will tackle Catching Fire soon so that I can wait with everybody else for the last book.

    Thanks guys. Appreciate the feedback.

  8. Aoife says:

    Thanks for the review. Like you, I managed to avoid the initial hype, and just got around to reading The Hunger Games this last week. Which was immediately followed by a quick trip to the bookstore to pick up Catching Fire. I would be very interested to hear what you think about Catching Fire, when you finish it, because after gobbling up THG, part way through CF I started to get a Very, Very Bad Feeling. I don’t like books/series where main characters I have grown to love bite the dust, and I’m willing to put down money or chocolate on the conviction that that’s exactly where this is heading.

  9. bahamia says:

    I listened to the Hunger Games and Catching Fire on my iphone after I saw the Hunger Games listed in the 2009 DABWAHA. I convinced my niece listen to them both for her English Advanced Reading class points. 30points! Score!We enjoyed both books, and are anticipating listening to MockingJay, the final book in the triology.

  10. Janine says:

    Excellent review! I enjoyed The Hunger Games an awful lot, because Katniss was such a wonderful character. I did feel it had some flaws, for example Katniss seemed ignorant of anything sexual (as I recall, she had never been kissed) considering that the world she has grown up in has forced her into such an adult role so early in life. Also, there were a few times when she was saved by some stroke of luck from having to make a tough choice and that seemed like a bit of a copout, but considering that this is a YA book, it’s probably to be expected. But I so loved Katniss and her survival instincts, and I found the world fascinating, so I’d grade this higher — an A- I think. Suzanne Collins has a great writing voice, too.

    I haven’t read Catching Fire yet. I keep meaning to, though.

  11. Renee says:

    Love the review! I really enjoyed Hunger Games, and in some ways it reminded me of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Suzanne Collins does a great job with an admittedly hackneyed plot. There are so many layers to the relationship between Katniss and Peeta, and to me that’s what makes Catching Fire a stand out.
    I still have to listen to Catching Fire, hopefully this month.

  12. SonomaLass says:

    No, you’re not the last person in the world to read this book. I still haven’t. But I will — although after some of these comments, it may be a book I wait on until the trilogy (it’s only three books, right?) is complete. If the action moves fast, I sometimes prefer to wait until I know the next book is available to dive right into.

  13. Avid Reader says:

    Quick drive by to say thanks for the feedback everybody! Must try the Uglies so t hat is my on TBB list.

    @SonomaLass: Yes you may want to wait. I started last night and yes it’s only three books. Like Janine said she has a nice writing voice.

  14. Lynn Spencer says:

    I’m starting to suspect I may be the last person to read this book. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to read it for a while but have been stubbornly waiting for the paperback. Your review definitely reinforces my desire to read the book, though. It sounds like a fascinating read.

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