In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, where she all but supports her mother and younger sister (Prim, short for Primrose) by illegally hunting in the forest outside the district's fence. Her father died years ago in a coal mining explosion and her mother briefly checked out in her grief before mentally returning to care for her daughters, though Katniss has yet to really forgive her mother for the lapse. This is a post-apocalyptic world and District 12 is located in what was formerly Appalachia, within the country of Panem (formerly North America). The government is concentrated in a central city called the Capitol, which dictates all law to the twelve existing districts. In the history of Panem, an uprising against the government more than seventy years ago resulted in the complete annihilation of District 13 and to prove that the Capitol still has total sway over the lives of every person in every district, the Hunger Games were established.
The Hunger Games are a yearly televised event where twenty-four tributes (a boy and girl from each district, selected by "random" lottery) must fight to the death over the course of a few days or even weeks while simultaneously trying to keep themselves fed and safe from whatever other tricks the arena might have to keep them on their toes. (Each person in the district has their name entered into the lottery when they turn twelve -- and they can choose to take on more chances in exchange for a ration of food to help feed their families.) The sole survivor of each year's Hunger Games will be set for life -- a home, money, fame, and a "job" as coach for the future tributes from their district -- but the games are brutal and while those in the Capitol might cheer and applaud and watch with rapt attention as teenagers fight and die, everyone in the Districts watches because the viewing is compulsory.
This year, when they call the name of the first tribute from District 12, it's Prim. Her first time in the lottery with only one chance of being called... Prim. Almost immediately, Katniss insists on taking Prim's place (which is an option), refusing to let her little sister even be considered. The selected male tribute is named Peeta, the baker's youngest son, and Katniss has had next to no contact with him in the past -- save for one very memorable occasion where she was on the verge of starving and he purposely burned two loaves of bread so he could toss them to her. Now, Katniss knows that she might have to kill the boy with the bread if she hopes to make it home, so she tries her best to put some distance between herself and Peeta, though he remains friendly enough towards her. She wonders if this is his strategy, as others have employed before him -- to come off as harmless until the end when true killing colors are displayed. Katniss and Peeta are taken off to the Capitol where they're given a team of stylists, fed, and play to the cameras. They are paraded around and interviewed -- and even when fighting for their lives within the arena, they still need to concern themselves about "sponsors" that might pay to supply a tribute with a gift within the arena (food, water, medicine, or some such item). Katniss has no idea how she might survive -- until suddenly, an angle for their joint participation is foisted upon her. Katniss has to decide if she can keep up the charade and keep herself alive at the same time.
From page one, this is an incredibly compelling story and there was hardly a moment to breathe as you are swept along with Katniss through her district and to the Capitol, where you're tossed into the games... at which point I somehow managed to read even faster. Katniss is no wilting or pandering heroine and even when being coached for the cameras before the games, her mentor has no idea what angle to work with a girl who clearly despises everyone around her. But she is strong, tough, and unpredictable... with a deep capacity for love (as demonstrated by her immediate selfless act to replace her sister) that she keeps closely guarded. The Hunger Games are no place to become attached to fellow contestants and the reader believes that if anyone is capable of surviving the games through a mixture of skill and cunning, it could very well be this girl from District 12. Peeta, meanwhile, is seen through Katniss's eyes as a threat. Not only might he be playing some kind of angle in his sweet-fellow attitude, but Katniss fears caring about the boy if she'll ultimately end up having to kill him. When only one tribute can remain standing as the victor, Katniss must focus her attention on using her skills to her best advantage and returning home alive.
If you haven't read them yet, you're in for quite a treat. The Hunger Games and its accompanying two books should not be missed.
She described my experience while reading this book perfectly.
Ms. Meyer wrote of The Hunger Games, “I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it….”
Well, maybe I didn’t find it as thought-provoking as all of that, but it did keep me up at night, and I certainly could not put it down. It is a gripping dystopian adventure yarn, an escapist story of the best kind, which picks you up and carries you away with it, whether you want to go or not.
The events are set in the futuristic country of Panem, which vaguely encompasses what once was modern-day North America. It is divided into twelve districts that remain under the close watch of the Capitol, and every year each district must send two of its young people there for a widely televised fight-to-the-death in a vast and treacherous arena.
Katniss, our sixteen-year-old heroine, becomes the female tribute for her district when she takes the place of her younger sister, Rue, who she is certain would be unable to survive in the arena. With Katniss, it’s another matter. She is strong, determined, and has been hunting to provide for her family for several years now, taught by her good friend (and seemingly obvious future love interest) Gale Hawthorne. The male tribute from her district is Peeta the baker’s son, with whom Katniss has already had one life-changing encounter, and whose fate will prove to be bound up with her own.
The world Suzanne Collins has created is quite fascinating, and for the most part she allows it to speak for itself, avoiding moralizing and overt social commentary. One cannot help but notice, though, the heights (or rather lows) to which our contemporary obsession with entertainment and appearance may be taking us, as typified by the ridiculous, ignorant, and somewhat heartless people of the Capitol. The values of the people in District Twelve, where our heroes hail from, seem much more basic and medieval, probably due to the state of near poverty in which they live. Throughout Collins’ prose remains simple and direct, yet it is also extremely evocative: I could see the various dishes and costumes she mentions appear before my eyes as I was reading, not because she spends any lengthy amount of time describing them, but mostly because her references to them are so odd and off-hand that they caused me to wonder about them and imagine them for myself.
What really makes this book work, though, is the emotional reality and power of it all. At one point I found myself cheering as Katniss defied the judges of the Games, then later came close to tears—and then to anger—at the demise of a beloved minor character. This is one wild ride, exciting enough to sustain the interest of today’s videogame-obsessed society (indeed, portions of the Games themselves reminded me of a videogame), but well-written and -characterized too. It is not great literature, and I doubt it will make my list of favorites even in the Young Adult genre, but something must be said for a book that so grabbed my attention as to make me read both it and its sequel in a single weekend (although the annoying cliffhanger ending was certainly a factor in that as well). Recommended.
Several weeks ago I had dinner with a writer of adult mystery novels. During the course of the evening, she raved to me about a young adult novel she'd read called The Hunger Games. While I don't read a lot of YA fiction, I would say that I'm more open to it than many a childless adult. And her recommendation must have stuck in my head, because when I saw it offered through Amazon's Vine program, I jumped at the chance to read the book. Yesterday I wrote her a thank you note because I loved The Hunger Games as much as she had, and I doubt I'd have given it a second glance if not for her raves.
The novel is set in a dystopian country called Panem--a place that was once North America. There have been wars and uprisings in Panem's past, and now the 12 districts that make up the land are ruled over with severity by the government in the Capitol. There are many ways that the populace is kept in its place, but perhaps the harshest is the annual Hunger Games. By edict, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 is randomly drawn from each district to compete in a fight to the death. The last one of these 24 left standing will win lifetime fame and fortune, and the entire nation is forced to watch these children kill each other live on television.
The first-person narrator of this gripping and fast-paced thriller is 16-year-old Katniss. When her 12-year-old sister is selected, Katniss knows the little girl will never survive, and volunteers to take her place. Katniss has been providing for her family for years, and has learned to show a tough face to the world. Still, nothing could possibly prepare her for what she's about to face. Visiting the Capitol for the first time, she experiences luxury and excess beyond her wildest imagination. On the field of battle, she experiences the best and worst of humanity.
The premise of this novel may seem a bit worn to you. I know that other writers have trod this territory before. And yet... it makes a good story, these human struggles. And Suzanne Collins has crafted a compelling and moving tale. I can tell you that I read 384 pages in a day because I COULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN! I will also admit to sobbing unabashedly at one point in the novel. There's so much more to the story than just the fight to the death. There is a fascinating and disturbing culture explored, complicated relationships, and complex ethical dilemmas. You may think you know how the novel has to end, but don't be so sure. The novelist is clever. This narrative does come to a definitive conclusion, but there is room for more to be told in this story. One aspect is left unresolved. I have absolutely no idea where this is going to go (Isn't that wonderful!), but I can't wait for the sequel!
I found this story so compelling that I listened to it almost in record time. I should mention that I find descriptions of animals being harmed or killed difficult to bear, but it was acceptable in the context of this story, where hunting was a matter of basic survival. The play-by-play description of the Hunger Games was told in a matter-of-fact, yet empathetic way which made the idea of all the suffering and death by turns fascinating, horrifying and oddly satisfying. The developing relationship between Katniss and Peeta—meant to kill each other yet compelled to protect one another—made the story that much more poignant. It made Katniss a believable heroine who, for all her dependability and well-developed survival instincts, is just a young girl, still discovering who she is and trying to work out her feelings amidst the turmoil and the slaughter. A winning combination. I can't wait to follow up with [8662515::Catching Fire] the second part of this trilogy.
Welcome to the 74th annual Hunger Games.
And it is a good book. It's not ground-breaking but it's still quite good and a novel twist on the classic short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." In the near future, the former United States has been divided into 12 territories. Each year, tributes are selected from each territory to compete in the hunger games, a kind of brutal post-apocalyptic version of "Survivor." The winner gets to live and wins fame, fortune and food for his or her district.
Our heroine, Katsiss volunteers for the role when her younger sister is selected. She's whisked away to the Capitol to train and then to compete, along with the son of a baker from her district. The two create a splash in the Capitol as they are introduced to the nation and prepare for the games.
As an exercise in world-building, the first half of the novel is fascinating. Suzanne Collins gives us enough glimpses of the society she's created without hindering or taking away from the plot. The observations by the first-person narrator of Kat help the reader begin to slowly identify with her and offer up some criticism of the society as a whole.
It's really once the game itself begins that things take a step backward. There is some suspense to the game, the pursuit and some twists and turns along the way. But the book loses some of its early momentum when Kat is turned loose in the game. Hearing about her strategy is interesting at first but given that this is first-person narrated story there's not much question who will win the game. Thankfully Collins gives us a twist that covers this, defying reader expectations.
All of that said, I found myself wishing that this story was embraced more than a certain other series about shiny vampires. It's a better written story, better executed and shows more promise in one novel than that series has in four. It's not terribly new or ground-breaking but it's still a good story, well told.
For those who find the premise either familiar ("The Running Man", etc.) or entirely too far-fetched: you should. Collins is working with ideas from our own culture to create a dystopic exaggeration of our social priorities. The exaggeration isn't stretched all that far, however; we can still recognize elements of ourselves as Katniss encounters Capital citizens and is repulsed by their shallow carelessness and thoughtless fascination with the games. The violence of this first volume is shocking, intentionally so, as we are reminded continuously of the youth of those participating in it. As Katniss struggles, we are right there with her through the first person narration, which makes the shock even more raw. But there is also an element of unreliability in Katniss; as a character, she is confident in her actions, but as a narrator, we see how confused she often is about more intangible things like emotion and motivation. Katniss' complex mix of capability and vulnerability, as well as the building intensity of the story itself, make this a necessary read for just about anyone.
In Suzanne Collins' gripping story of blood, death, and loyalty, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen must fight for her life in a gladiatorial arena to entertain the wealthy ruling class, the Capitol. Ever since the world dissolved into nuclear war and the Capitol created the 12 Districts of Panem from what used to be the United States, the Hunger Games have been held yearly to remind the people of the Districts that the Capitol controls their lives. Every year each District must send two tributes, one female and one male, to the arena... and of the Districts' 24 tributes, only one can survive.
In this first book of the series, Katniss is a fairly likeable character, trying to make sense of her world and survive the brutal circumstances beyond her control. She's extremely practical and focused on the task at hand, and has held her family together since her father's death in a mining accident. She has a lot of experience killing animals, as she hunts illegally outside the enclosure of District 12 to feed her family. But killing people is another thing altogether... right?
Fascinating, too, are the other characters: District 12's male tribute Peeta, torn between his desire to live and his refusal to become the Capitol's killer; Effie Trinket, District 12's brightly artificial publicity liaison; drunken Haymitch Abernathy, District 12's sole Hunger Games victor who must act as mentor to the tributes every year; the enigmatic Cinna, assigned to be Katniss's fashion stylist; and Katniss's mother, whose depression after her husband's death nearly starves herself and her two daughters. We see all of these people, flawed and very human, through Katniss's eyes, and they come across as very realistic.
For all its action and fast pace, this type of dystopian fiction invites reflection. Since I finished the book I've been pondering its deeper themes. One, of course, is the price we'll pay for entertainment. The Hunger Games is not all that different from some reality TV shows, if we're really honest with ourselves. Another theme is the loss of self in the press of necessity. While I was rooting for Katniss to win the Games, I was also uncertain about what that would cost her, and if she should—like Rue—die whole, uncorrupted by the Capitol. And there's always the Capitol's obsession with physical beauty, luxury, and self-indulgence, not terribly different from the dominant celebrity culture exuded from our very own Hollywood. This isn't a raging, moralistic indictment of our society's ills... just an observation on how humanity never really changes.
So now I know what the hype is all about. I read this in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed Collins' world-building and character development. The story zings you along pretty fast and Collins' use of the present tense (narrated by Katniss) is an effective device to heighten the suspense, as the reader experience everything at the same time as Katniss. The ending is probably as happy as it can be in such a world, while also setting up for the next installment, Catching Fire—which I was able to start immediately after finishing The Hunger Games. (Being home sick in bed has its advantages!) If you haven't read this series yet and plan to, I recommend that you give yourself a good chunk of uninterrupted reading time for it. It's definitely a page-turner.
Three days and 374 pages later, I was hanging on every word and was especially happy to see the final words: END OF BOOK 1. That means I'll be able to pick up book 2 -- after Suzanne Collins writes it.
The story grips from the beginning because it's an age old story, even if it is set in a society that has gone completely insane with a controlling government, segregation, rich vs. poor, and everyone's need to fight for their life. Some in District 12 cave into the lack of food, the tight rein of the government, the fight for survival everyday. Katniss and Gale are two who fight to save their families, and who are not willing to succumb to the government's goal of beating them down. They break the rules and leave their district to hunt and forage for food to feed their families. They are children who have taken on the breadwinner responsibility to save themselves, their parents and siblings.
The opening pages reveal a distinct reminiscence of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. The town is preparing to offer up two of its children to fight in the Hunger Games, knowing that only one person can win the game. It's been over 30 years since one of their children has returned victorious, so everyone in town has a heavy heart, despite their government's command to be joyous and enthusiastic.
In an act of selfless devotion to her sister, Katniss and a boy name Peeta are off to the Capital as District 12's chosen players in the game. From there the book literally does not stop. There is a twist and turn on every page as these two young adults literally fight for their lives against 20 other people. Add to the mix a love story, allied bonds between some of the players, and a constant fight for survival and the skill and intelligence that Katniss brings to the game, and you've got a very exciting book.
This is a very tightly written book where none of the detail is lost or forgotten. In a world where teens are trying to outsmart, out power, and eventually kill each other it would be easy to think the plot was ridiculous and very unrealistic. Yet Collins manages to portray every move as horrific and very believable. Even Katniss' confusion over her feelings for her District opponent, Peeta, are painful and hopeful at the same time.
I think this book is a serious contender for the Newbery Award. The concept plays on some of the other distopia stories like a watchful government and sacrificing children for entertainment, but Collins takes us to places that are original and imaginative. The plot moves along at a very nice clip, and all the while her characters are developing, changing, growing and keeping the audience in a vice-grip. Just as people might do in a real-life survivor situation. Her setting in the Capital reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, and her explanation of life in the various Districts included tremendous detail, leaving me with a feeling of barrenness and desolation despite the richness of trees, plants, woods, and other earthly things surrounding the Districts. This is a book of contrasts, and Collins does a skilled job of pulling it all together into a very realistic story, that comes down to the love and survival of a boy and girl.
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The tributes are then treated to luxury in the capitol, the epicenter to the country. During the contestants’ press conferences, Peeta reveals he's had a crush on Katniss. When the games begin, Katniss is left alone to fend for herself, while she thinks Peeta is working with the enemies. What will happen with Peeta and Katniss? Will they fight against each other, trying to eliminate their fellow tribute? Or will they fall for each other, and battle as a team?
The Hunger Games is a book that has a taste of action, adventure, science fiction, and romance. The novel has many exiting battle scenes in which author Suzanne Collins vividly uses imagery, to the point in which you yourself feel like you’re in a life or death situation. This excerpt from the book, which is taken from Katniss’ thoughts, is a good example of that:
“My muscles are strained so tightly, they feel like they might snap at any moment. My teeth clenched to the breaking point. The mutts go silent and the only thing I can hear is the blood pounding in my good ear.”
Romance plays a big part in the book, and ties together with Katniss and Peetas’ fate in the games. Katniss’ background makes you feel for her and the family she has left. While reading, you hope that Katniss will survive to see her family again. The ending was the best part of the book for me, as everything culminates in one final scene. You’re left wondering, is it the end? A cliff-hanger at the end will leave you begging for answers. All of these factors will leave readers addicted to The Hunger Games, as well as “hungry” for the second book.
The Hunger Games was also a great book, because Suzanne Collins has a wonderful ability to develop her characters. Each of her characters are multi-dimensional, and very different from each other. She also was extremely descriptive in her writing, which helps the reader to use all their senses to feel like they are in the book with Katniss and Peeta.
Overall, I would give the Hunger Games a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. It is a great read that will leave you on the edge of your seat craving for more. The book does sound strange, but once you start reading, you’ll realize how great it really is. The book overall is very exciting and will be enjoyed by anyone who is into sci-fi, fiction, or romance, willing to try something new, as I did.
Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old living in the dystopia of Panem, a futuristic remnant of current North America controlled by the Capitol. She supports her family through illegal means. Every year, the Capitol's lottery seizes teenagers for a competition to the death. This year, Katniss is sent to represent her district.
True, Collins is no Faulkner, but masterly prose isn't expected from a book marketed towards Young Adults. That said, The Hunger Games is not for innocent readers, as violence is approached without trepidation. And while Collins creates enough originality in her setting, her ideas are often downplayed by amateur naming and minimal first-person descriptions. Admittedly, this works well for a book imbued with action.
A glance at the slightly holographic, juvenile cover of The Hunger Games, coupled with what begins as a formulaic hero journey, might shy readers away. But after a hundred pages or so, excitement overwhelms, and Collins attaches us to the characters of an auspicious new series.
Well I can safely say that it wasn't the quality of the book that caused that. Just my own idleness. And I'm so glad I finished it just to say how brilliant this novel really is.
It's funny and sad and frustrating.
It claws at your heart and makes you will the characters on to victory.
The writing was eloquent, short and sweet and direct. It wasn't airy fairy and didn't overcompensate. It just told it how it was. Exactly as you'd imagine Katniss to narrate it.
I love her character in this book. She's true, she's naive yet aware, she's direct and harsh and yet full of goodness and sadness beneath her hard shell. She's independent and strong but still yearns for that affection and support she's lacked since her father's death.
Her moments with Peeta were sweet but it was obvious that someone was going to get hurt once the cold hard truth came out about her feelings for him- or lack of. I really felt for him but was secretly happy because she made hints that her feelings lied elsewhere. With Gale. And I liked that, because though we only know a little about him, he has a strong demanding presence, that says 'Look at me, I'm a contender'.
Me likey. And I'm looking forward to more of him.
The tributes were diverse, complex and though it is hard to give 24 people a 3 dimensional personality in a 300 page novel without being too boring or overwhelming the plot, the author does it very well. You learn as much as you need to about the characters and though you may want to know more about them, particularly Thresh and Foxface, even Knifegirl-Clove just to know how and where she got so twisted and messed-up, you don't need to know it to make the story work.
I liked the whole world that Suzanne created. The darkness concealed by bright lights and glamour and fame. The deaths of young people treated like a gameshow. It was sickening, and yet alluring. Like the Games, it was horrible to watch/read and yet you couldn't look away.
I particular liked Caesar Flickerman.
He was really good at his job, he helped Katniss out a lot and I secretly hope that he has a more interesting role, maybe even supports the resistance that is clearly brewing. But probably not when he's quite happy hosting something as oppressive and controlling as the Hunger Games. I don't think anyone FORCED him to do it. So my hopes are probably pointless.
Cinna. Cinna, Cinna he's our man. He's the Don of this book. Maybe I'm biased cos of the film but I love his character. I liked him in the film so it's natural for me to like him all the more after reading the book. The chemistry between him and Katniss is IMO magical and sensual??? >>>
(oh come on! Don't tell me I'm the only one who thought that. I mean LOOK! JUST LOOK!)
and captivating and sweet and poignant.
Too many AND's??
I DON'T CARE.
Let there be more of him. PWEASE!
AHA! SEE. I KNEW IT!
UHUM.... Moving on...
Haymitch is a wonderful character. You like him and hate him at once but in the end like him more as the book progresses. I rate him for putting himself together for Katniss and Peeta.
You understand why he became a drunk. Why he became so bitter and though Katniss is repulsed by him at first, after the Games, she begins to understand him herself. She sees why he turned out this way and prays that it won't happen to her. A huge contrast in mindset from her life before she was a Tribute. Back to Haymitch... he's funny, arrogant, and smart in a cool way. He plays a father figure the more he warms to Katniss, which is a nice touch.
Effie Trinket has to be mentioned just for her quirky, odd character. She's annoying at times, strange at all times, but she has a magnetism about her that draws you in. She keeps everyone's heads together despite giving the impression hers is on a different planet entirely.
Rue's character was a lovely, touching addition to the already rollercoaster ride of a book. And Thresh too in the short moment we meet him. I cried inside with Katniss when Rue... well you know she doesn't live so there's no need for a spoiler alert. I felt Katniss's pain. And I gave her a three finger salute back after she arranged the flowers. It made me think back to the movie and that just added to the feeling of the moment. My favourite part just for its tragic and emotional entity.
I want to know what will happen now there's the air of dread and doom hanging over Katniss, Peeta and possibly the whole of District 12 (and 11 come to think of it).
Right... onto the next one...
In Susan Collins’s future, the story moves to a modern Rome, Pan Am. This is America’s future: a nation carved into 12 districts, providing wealth and entertainment to an oppressive Capital. In punishment for an uprising 74 years in the past, each district must offer up two tributes a year. These tributes are not fed to a bull man. They are forced into a battle to the death; children must kill each other for the entertainment of the Capital and for the punishment of their great-grandparents.
This story follows one girl, Katniss Everdeen, through her trials as a tribute. Survival, both her own and that of her family’s back home, are always at the forefront. She is used as a pawn at every turn, both for and against the Capital. What makes this story great is that Katniss understands this, accepts this, and uses it to her advantage. Katniss is no damsel in distress. She is easily one of the strongest characters in young adult literature, and certainly one of the strongest female characters.
Why I picked this book up: I read this because I was obliged to for work. Our education majors kept asking questions about it for their classes and, in order to be able to help them, I had to read it. I was dreading it, mainly because the last book like that I had to read was Twilight.
Why I finished it: Believable characters I empathized with, a compelling plot, statements about our own society, and a kick-ass female lead.
Who I’d recommend it to: Tweens and teens (male and female). My 13-year-old niece, who gets caught up in the “romance” of Bella Swan and needs a good reality check on how strong a girl can be on her own. My husband, who loves dystopias but hates saccharine stories. Parents of children who get caught up in over-protecting them.
How I describe it when I’m recommending it: The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire meets Ender’s Game.
I waited a long time to read [The Hunger Games]. In all that time of waiting, I've read rave reviews from family and friends about how great the book. For the most part, I concur wholeheartedly. The premise of the story, the battles to survive, the heart wrenching choice between life or love, are all aspects of [The Hunger Games] that will keep a reader riveted to the pages of the book. My only hesitation is that I read the book right after another great book and undoubtably that has skewed and biased my opinion in the reading of what would probably have been a five star read, if I had read it at a different time. The tension that is a large part of what should make [The Hunger Games] a nail biter of a book became a bit predictable at the most critical parts of the drama, and the fact that I knew that Katniss will inevitably survive the games (otherwise, this wouldn't be a trilogy), in some ways decreased the level of anticipation and became just a matter of how she was going to accomplish that feat. Regardless of my mixed feelings, nothing can diminish the fact that [The Hunger Games] was an enjoyable, above average read, and a series worth pursuing.
Rating: 1* of five (p81)
What was I thinking? I don't like books about teens. Well, that's not entirely true...I am not a Serial Killer is about a teen boy who's sure he's the evilest thing ever born, is told from his PoV, and yet that gets darn close to 4 stars. I don't like books about teen girls. Well, that's not entirely true, either...Deathless is told from the PoV of a teen girl in a magical struggle for her life, and yet it got four full and eager stars.
So why didn't I like this book?
Because the whole thing is a cynical exercise in marketing a product that has elements the publisher recognized as hot and trending: Strong teen girl; dystopian setting; children in battle for their lives. Sound familiar? Think Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and forward. Same situation. Female hero. Technology not magic. No humor, ungraceful writing, and cold business calculation set it apart from the Potter books.
I don't know Ms. Collins, and I impute no impure motives to her. She might very well have written the story dearest to her heart, for all I know. But I do know, and have for quite some years, publishers. This is a product promoted to fill a gap in the line-up, like the Chrysler 200.
Awful. That it succeeded so well is depressing. That it's so unquestioningly lauded is either life-sappingly grim or suicide-inducingly terrible. In a country where free speech is ever under attack (hence the First Amendment, and laws supporting it...no one legislates the safety of a thing unquestioned), we waste our collective breath lauding a second-rate industrial product, a foolish simplistic ramshackle pastiche of better books that, in a better world, would merit only silence and oblivion.
Shame. Shame. And more shame on me for adding to the chorus.
If in a minor key.
Let me first say that this is a fun, suspenseful read. I think Collins has come up with a brilliant concept. The book is set in a post-U.S. dictatorship, where the ultra-rich Capitol ruthlessly controls the poor and starving citizens of the outlying Districts. As penance for a failed revolution many years ago, the Capitol forces each of the 12 Districts to offer up two teen tributes -- a boy and a girl -- each year for the Hunger Games, a televised contest of survival. Last one left living wins. (P.S. I was reminded of the myth of Theseus when reading this, which apparently was an inspiration for Collins.)
This certainly isn't an original concept. It brings to mind The Running Man, as well as "The Most Dangerous Game," a short story many of us read in grade school. Collins' brilliance is in casting teens as her survivalists. I'm not claiming that high school is this brutal, but there are similarities, such as the forming of cliques and the feeling of being a hounded outsider.
Collins has also created a very strong heroine in Katniss Everdeen. Katniss has skills, she is resourceful, and she solves her own problems. But she has flaws, too. For instance, she is unable to read the emotions of others or to let herself be open to them, which causes her to misjudge people in critical ways. This makes Katniss a character we can relate to, cheer for and worry about. By throwing her into such an extreme situation, Collins ensures that readers won't be able to put the book down.
It's no mystery why these books are so popular. And unlike other recent YA sensations (Twilight springs to mind), I think they deserve to be.
After the ill-fated rebellion, the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games to remind the districts of their power on a yearly basis. Each year, one girl and one boy are selected from each district to participate, with the odds of being chosen ‘favoring’ older kids from poorer families. Kat’s family is certainly poor since her father, a miner, died, but she never imagined that her younger sister would be selected as a representative, a ‘tribute’ in the games. When Prim is selected, Kat volunteers to take her place without even thinking and is thrust into the world of the games, an arena in which 24 teenagers compete to survive and to kill off their competition, to be the last person standing and be the champion, all televised for the enjoyment/subjugation of the populace.. Think Survivor meets The Running Man meets The Most Dangerous Game.
Against her better judgment, Kat ends up in an alliance with Peeta, the boy tribute from her district, playing at being star-crossed lovers to win the approval of the audience and a greater possibility of sponsors and gifts that will help her survive. As her feelings for Peeta become more complicated, so too does the thought of her possibly having to kill him in order to survive and win the games.
I knew all along that I was enjoying the book, although I didn’t really pick up on just how much I was enjoying it until it ended (the fact that I read the whole thing in 24 hours during the work week should have clued me in). I suppose I was too caught up in it to even realize that I was so caught up in it. When Collins left me with her cliffhanger ending, I wanted to yell “no!” and curse the fact that the sequel, “Catching Fire,” won’t be out until September. “Catching Fire” isn’t even in my library’s system yet, so I’m currently checking every day, waiting for it to be added so I can get at the front of the holds list. However, I’m actually tempted to go ahead and preorder “Catching Fire” from Amazon, something I’ve only ever done with the last Harry Potter book, because I just want that badly to read it. (Okay, since I wrote this, “Catching Fire” DID become available at my library, I’m the 8th hold on 5 copies, although I’m still tempted to preorder this, Harry Potter 7-style).
“The Hunger Games” is a young adult book, but with enough depth, character development, and excitement for adults. I’d tell you to go read it now, but perhaps you should put it off until September, when you can jump straight from “The Hunger Games” to “Catching Fire.”
-popcorn (popped in coconut oil and seasoned with vegan butter and brewer's yeast)
-a bowl of blueberries and strawberries sprinkled with cacao powder and sliced almonds
-a microwaved frozen gluten-free dairy-free burrito
-a muffin made of almond flour, sweet potato, bananas, and eggs
-a handful of red grapes
Books I neglected while reading The Hunger Games:
-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
-Living with Intensity by Susan Daniels
-The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niebuhr
-The Histories by Herodotus
Things in spite of which I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games:
-feeling nauseated reading in the car with someone wearing really strong cologne
-wondering why Katniss doesn't mention her period while in the arena
Days I have to read the rest of the trilogy before my summer class starts: 14