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1 Mar 2012

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I'm a bit late with this trilogy.  I knew about The Hunger Games for a while but I never really lept to read it.  I think by the time I had found out about it the third and final book had come out and all I was hearing about it was the love triangle.  Those two words usually make me dart back in to my hidey hole because by then I had read too many love triangles and was kind of sick of the idea.  It put me off.  But then I read the summary, read more about the book - what is was about, who it revolved around, how the idea came about and I was interested.  I knew it was going to be more than a love story.  It had other focuses which intrigued me.  So last Christmas my boyfriend bought me it and it was finally time to read it, seeing what people had been raving about.

I'll go through my favourite things to begin with.  First on the list are the games.  Part One of the book was quite slow, mainly because I was dying to read about reading the games.  I was intrigued to see how it played out.  What things can happen.  How brutal are the deaths and what do they do to young teenagers.  I felt guilty about wanting to see the games start, feeling like I might as well be part of the Capitol but the build up was so gradual and tense that I was itching to see it all begin and read how the players do anything to survive.  

The games turned me into an emotional, tense wreck.  I was reduced to nail biting during Katniss' first night and reading how she was almost caught.  I think at some point I was holding my breath with her.  And sadness for that unseen tribute getting stabbed.  Hardly twenty four hours in the game and she was dead.  For a particular young tribute I was in tears.  For someone so young to be involved in these games and meet a horrible death was quite upsetting.  This was somebody who had hardly lived.  Hadn't even reached their teens and that was it.  I liked the character because they proved they could hold their own despite their age, height and strength.  They lasted longer than most, although sadly not to the end. 

The games showed a society that I can see developing now.  We already have Big Brother where the creators really like to screw with their contests psychologically, purposely picking out the emotionally unstable ones and deliberately choosing people who will contrast with others.  And audiences watch them argue and scream at each other until some can't take it anymore and leave the house willingly.  We have I'm A Celebrity where celebrities are signing up to eat insects and go on dangerous tasks.  And if there is a particular task that the audience knows would upset a contestant they'd vote for them to do it.  It's cruel and it will probably get worse.  To the point where people fight to death? Who knows? I hope not but it could happen.  And see how it warped some of the tributes was shocking.  There were contestants who reluctantly accepted that they'd have to kill to go back home.  If they wanted to see their loved ones like Katniss they knew that they had to play the games, although hoped that most of the tributes would be killed by others before they took lives themselves.  And then there were ones who had trained for this.  I would say probably to have a chance to go back home but the pack that got together seemed to enjoy the hunt and that sickened me.  They didn't act like training was a necessary to have a chance to live.  It was a game to them as well and they were pure animals. 

Katniss was a smart, careful and compassionate heroine who I was glad to be introduced to.  Her life revolved around her family, taking care of her mother and sister to the point where she volunteered herself in order to save Prim.  Now, the argue could be that it was still silly of Katniss because she could die and then where would her family be if she was the main provider? But Prim was going to be a tribute and nobody of course was going to volunteer.  Prim's healing skills may have benefited her but I doubt she would have had a chance.

Katniss did.  I could already see from her hunting abilities and knowledge of D12 plants and trap setting.  She wasn't a fighter like Cato and Clove but she at least had a chance of surviving by herself in the arenas, hidden away from other tributes.  She was wary and I don't blame her for being wary of Peeta, thinking that he could be acting friendly to fool her.  They were about to enter a deadly game with one survivor and she was right to question his behaviour.  I liked how observant she was towards other tributes and previous Hunger Games.  She checked out the opposition, trying to figure out how they could be a threat to her and remembered previous tactics of tributes.

The relationships she developed with others was touching.  There were few people who she developed any kind of connection with but the few she did open up to (Rue, Peeta, Cinna, Gale, Prim) you could see she cared about them and they became her world.  She trusted them and looked to them as well for comfort.  Prim for being there as her sister and Rue as a reminder of her family.  Gale for the being the best friend she opened up to and the new feelings she was currently developing for him.  Cinna for teaching her to not judge somebody so quickly.  Cinna was going to be yet another silly OTT stylist for the games, ridiculous and part of the Capitol.  But he became a close friend to her, talking to her and encouraging her all the way; completely the opposite of who she assumed he was.  Peeta and Katniss together were up and down but when they realised they could be on each other's side they worked together and gradually looked out for one another, not just because of romantic feelings but because they were ready to be equals and work as a team to survive. 

It wasn't all perfect though.  I did see more telling than showing in the writing, feeling that Katniss told us what she was feeling most of the time, rather than trying to show it.  And I found the beginning to drag because of a lot of info-dumping about the country and its history.  It did sound a bit textbook and Collins could have built up the world throughout the three books gradually rather than all at once.  But we'll see what the next two brings because new aspects of Panem might need to be focused on.  Still, I could have done without the info-dump, just to make Part One move a little bit quicker.

I wish I could have heard a little bit more from the other tributes.  I understand that with 24 tributes Collins couldn't have focused on each one to flesh out completely but they were still important characters that I would have liked to have known a bit more about.  It was quite sudden how most of them died in the first few minutes of the game but then again when the games started it was a rush for weapons and dangerous for the ones who weren't going to be much competition.  So I guess it was realistic for there to be deaths immediately.  I think I just felt a bit sad that I didn't get a chance to know them.  They were unknown tragic characters who were doomed in the first five seconds of the games.  Maybe that was done to reflect how they appear to President Snow and the viewers who are entertained by this.  They're nobody.  Just faces that they won't bother to think about and don't really want to know anything about them.  It's all about the last eight or six where things get really interesting in their opinion.

Overall, I'm so glad I read the book and now I'm counting the days till the film comes out.  Here's the trailer for your eager eyes. :) Doesn't it give you chills?


  1. I've only read the first book, but I've been told that the rest of the series is not as good. One person in particular didn't like the way the story developed over the next two novels. I'm certainly going to hold off on them until after I've seen the movie. Given the pile of TBR books on my desk, that won't be hard. :)

  2. I've heard the same. So I'm trying not to have high expectations in case it's really disappointing. Still curious to see where everything leads. :)