Friday, July 22, 2011

Praise for "The Hunger Games," Book 1: The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins' triology, The Hunger Games, launches the reader into a post-apocalyptic universe that is scarily not so distant from our own.  In Panem, a dictatorship consisting of thirteen districts, in what was once North America, quality of life ranges from plush and frivolously lucrative to downright disparity.

Collins introduces us to 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, an avid hunter, from District 12, the coal mining district.  Katniss' father died several years prior in a coal mining accident, which sent her mother into a state of depression and left her nearly catatonic.  Consequently, Katniss has assumed the role of leader of the house, hunting and providing for her family along with her best friend and potential love interest, Gale, trading her game at the Seam (their equivalent of a black market) - both illegal acts - and receiving tesserae, a measly grain that is delivered to her family monthly at a grave price.  For each tesserae year Katniss receives tesserae, her name is entered into the tribute lottery.

Reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's disturbing and remarkable story, The Lottery, all districts except the Capitol must supply two tributes to compete in The Hunger Games.  When her 12-year-old sister Prim's name is picked for the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss, fiercely protective, assumes her place.  When she discovers that the other tribute is none other than Peeta Mellark, a boy to whom Katniss believes she owes her life, the head games begin.

Katniss and Peeta are whisked away to the Capitol where a team of stylists polishes and costumes them, creating Katniss' persona:  the girl who was on fire.  Their mentor, Haymitch, the only tribute from District 12 to ever win a Hunger Game, uses a strategy where her presents Katniss and Peeta as lovers.  Peeta, we discover, is genuine, while Katniss is simply a confused girl, fighting for her life.  Regardless, the Capitol - supporters of the Hunger Games - absolutely eat up this arrangement.

In the arena there can only be one victor.  Everyone must fight to the death or risk being overtaken by myriad vicious and dangerous ploys that the Gamemakers create.  The arenas vary from year to year, and always present new challenges so as to keep the audiences, who watch either because they have to or because they enjoy it, entertained.  Life in the arena is about as far from normal as possible, yet remains a horrifying reality for the 24 tributes forced inside.  Muttations - mutated creatures with gruesome powers - natural disasters, and numerous mind games wreak havoc with the contestants, and we become consumed with Katniss' inner turmoil:  Peeta or Gale? Will her mother and sister survive without her? What is it like to kill a human? If she survives, how will she get past it?

Defying all odds, Katniss and Peeta become Panem's sweethearts - the William and Kate of their day. Using this newfound celebrity, they outsmart the Gamemakers, but leave the door wide open for future personal drama, which we certainly find in book 2, Catching Fire.

Collins weaves a deranged commentary on class, race, and love that leaves us wanting to turn the pages. Despite The Hunger Games being classed as Young Adult Fiction (YAF), this tale is surprisingly adult in its premise. This reviewer would recommend knowing the young adult who chooses to read this book and also recommends that parents read along, because there are numerous graphic images and difficult situations. All in all: 4.5/5 stars.

Pros:  Readability. Plot. Psychologically disturbing. Well-developed characters. Excellent analogy to present social problems.

Cons: The apparently required love triangle present in YAF. Time switch can be unsettling.


  1. I just read this book recently and enjoyed it, although from what I've heard about the 2nd and 3rd books from an Odyssey employee, I'm not sure I'll go on. I also recently read The Giver which is not un-similar.

  2. I love The Giver. It's one of my all time favorite books.

    Although I was not terribly enthused with the ending of The Hunger Games trilogy, I recommend reading them. They read pretty fast and they do keep you on the edge of your seat.

  3. I can not wait to get the second one! I am number 11 in line at the library. I'm practically sitting by the phone waiting for the call! :) Thank you so much Miss Hillary for getting me into this book. You have never led me astray with your book suggestions.

  4. Well, allow me to lead you astray: please read "Babbit" by Sinclair Lewis and doubt all of my literary taste. (But don't really, because it's bad. Mix the inherent angst of "Catcher in the Rye" and none of the wit, and combine it with the most boring story some old drunkard ever told you, and voila! "Babbit."

  5. Actually, though, Meggy, when you're done with "The Hunger Games," I recommend reading "Silas Marner." I know quite a few people who really disliked it, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

  6. You think my local library would have Silas Mamer? I would love something to read while I wait for the second book from The Hunger Games.

  7. You could always check. :-) It's sort of a classic, though not in any sort of Dickensian way.