review: the hunger games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Book Jacket Summary:

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Two words: Hot Damn.

Meet Katniss: the heroine who has almost lost everything once already, and now faces the (almost definite) possibility of losing it all again. Also, the reason I stayed up until 3:07am this morning and woke up an hour and thirteen minutes after my alarm went off (I had to leave seven minutes later, in fact, to make it on time to work).

The first thing that comes to mind is how well the history of Panem is woven into the story. When I first heard of the books, I didn’t quite believe it would be that good. Really? It sounded like a strange mix of Survivor and Lord of the Flies. Gruesome reality TV show + the struggle of humanity in children. The only way this strange reality show could be accepted is if the world is believable, and it’s very easy for many authors to get bogged down in history before the action even begins — but then you’ve lost half your readers! However, Collins expertly weaves history into the story, making it seem like Katniss is merely ranting and raving about the injustices of history and the current ruling government, rather than simultaneously managing to explain the intricacies of how this strange gladiator-style battle of children has come about.

The second thing that comes to mind is how the character development for Katniss is fantastic. She is constantly torn between her head (which says to distrust anyone) and her heart (which clearly yearns to trust and help those she sees as fellow victims). She is also a survivor, but not just for herself — and that’s what makes her a strong protagonist, because she wants everyone to survive. Despite the impossibility of that outcome. And as the book develops, you completely understand her anxiety about the romance with Peeta — because honestly, life and death situations can cause intense feelings, especially when love is tied to survival.

Additionally, I actually really enjoy the character development for Haymitch, which I did not expect. However, I must admit, the character development for Peeta makes me anxious — I hope he gets at least a little more attention in the second book. And I think the rest of the characters have significant room to grow, but were not necessarily crucial to the story.

However, I must say, the past few hours have given me some space to develop criticism. Mostly, I’m not sure about the ending. In fact, this ending almost feels like a cop-out: for while the battle is in character with the Capitol’s history, it is not in character with the actual Hunger Games — the Hunger Games which thrive off the brutal head-to-head battle between two young adults. Though the final battle is intense and terrifying, I never feel as if the hatred between Katniss and Cato come to a head — because honestly, though they are the last two significant contenders, their final encounter does not address this tension. It is as if Collins was having trouble writing this scene, so she decided to approach the ending in another manner which eliminated the need for direct confrontation — or, rather, changed the nature of that confrontation in a way I’m not sure I accept.

This final battle also seems out of character with how the Capitol would want itself to appear — we know that the games are broadcast live and everyone is required to attend, especially as the games near the end. However, the final battle seems to reveal information that I would assume, from the rest of the book, that the Capitol would prefer to remain secret. It brings the Capitol’s inhumanity to  whole new level — an unacceptable level, even considering the history we have learned. But I worry that Collins will not address the Capitol’s reasoning behind the decision to construct the final battle this way — because while I see it as a new and vital piece of information in what I assume will be Katniss’s eventual plan to take down the totalitarian Capitol, I’m not sure Collins sees it as that.

There. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about…and if you haven’t, then you’re probably extremely confused.

The last thing that comes to mind is how much I want more, regardless of my discomfort with the ending of the Hunger Games. In fact, maybe even more so from the discomfort, because I want Collins to have a plan — for while I don’t think that the lack of resolution between Cato and Katniss can be fixed, I do think that if there is logic behind the ending, then this lack of resolution is justified.

I would recommend this to anyone and everyone who has any vague interest in listening good books. Seriously. It’s addictive.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • I have never had a book make me cry in the first 50 pages. This one came close enough that I had to stop reading so that the tears that were welling up would subside and I could knock some sense into myself.
  • I should learn more survival skills.
  • I love how Collins weaves what must be plot development for book two into the story of the first book — and so effortlessly! It’s easy to tell that she’s at least planned out the majority of these books, and that she probably has a detailed outline around somewhere. Best of all, it also gives me hope that the logic behind the ending will soon be revealed…
  • The ending is a cliffhanger. If you’re going to buy the first book, you should just go ahead and fork out the money for the second one while you’re at the bookstore and save yourself the gas money.

***

Rather than give this book a vaguely arbitrary rating, I tried to imagine where I would put this book on my bookshelf, assuming I had it in a physical copy and not on my nook. Here’s how my bookshelve(s) are laid out: my boring chemistry and math textbooks are on the bottom, because who really needs to look at those (and they’re heavy). The next two or three shelves up tend to be books I don’t necessarily care for, as they were only mediocre at best; as such, these books are alphabetized (I still lend these out occasionally, so I want easy access). The two shelves approximately at eye level are my favorite book, almost all of which I have reread at least once, and tend to be organized haphazardly based on favoritism. The top shelf is usually reserved for books I have yet to read, as well as books I will probably re-read. (And of course, there are boxes in my closet for the books that are either for young children or were so bad that they should probably be recycled for the paper.)

This would go on the top-shelf for re-reading. End of story.

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2 thoughts on “review: the hunger games

  1. Actually, buy book 3, Mockingjay, while you’re at the store too. You’ll thank yourself when you get to the end of Catching Fire.
    Oh, and I strongly recommend reading Mockingjay is a happy place and time. This is not a book to read while you procrastinate studying for finals.
    In other news, I’m glad you liked it! I had that same reaction too. I read it while I was moving into the Zanzibar-Ponderosa, and I had to run out and go to Walmart to get Catching Fire as soon as I was done!

  2. I also store textbooks on the bottom shelf. Lifting shmifting.

    I didn’t actually read your review, because having discussed this book with another friend I want to read it. Thanks for the reminder!

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