I know it’s a little late in the game to be reviewing the first book in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games Trilogy, but since I put off reading it, I only recently finished reading it.
The Hunger Games takes place in a war-ruined North America. Out of the ashes, sprung Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is frivolous, harsh, and cruel, and keeps the other twelve districts beneath its thumb by forcing them to contribute one boy and one girl for the annual Hunger Games, a competition in which participants fight to the death on live TV.
Our hero, Katniss Everdeen from District Twelve offers herself as tribute when her little sister’s name is drawn. For Katniss, despite her skill with a bow, this act of love is regarded as a death sentence. Unintentionally, she becomes a contender in the games and a catalyst for rebellion.
The Hunger Games is a violent, fast-faced novel full of nail-biting suspense and romance, sure to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.
A New York Times Bestseller and adapted for the big screen, The Hunger Games practically guarantees to be a good read, and it was, but I’m not so sure it was worth all of the hype. For starters, I know I’ve read this story before . . . does Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale strike a bell? Published in 1999, the novel is about a ruthless totalitarian government that pits ninth-grade students against each other in a competition for survival. Armed with only a map, food, and various weapons, and forced to wear special collars to keep them in line, the youth must fight each other until only one winner remains. The contest is broadcasted live for entertainment. I don’ know about you, but I saw a lot of reused details such as the government, the competition, the limited supplies, the single winner, the live broadcast, to name a few. I’m not saying Suzanne Collins plagiarized, but she was definitely inspired by Koushun Takami’s work. Not that inspiration is a bad thing, I just might have wanted to see more deviation.
My main problem with The Hunger Games is the set-up; I had a really difficult time swallowing the half-assed world the author wanted me to choke down. The technology is hardly sound either. There was just a lot of stuff that did not make sense. For me, it was just a hard sell.
What did sell me on the book was the characters; this is where the author shines. Katniss is a believable teenage girl full of angst and confusion. She is competent and strong, yet flawed, which makes her relatable and likable even. Aside from his name reminding me of bread, Peeta (a baker’s son no less) is also an engaging character who we learn about through the unreliable eyes of Katniss. The entire story, she has us believing he is a skeeming player, he is actually genuinely in love with her. When the two finally come together somewhere in the last part of the book, it’s enjoyable watching Katniss trying to fall in love with him for the cameras knowing that they don’t feel the same.
There are also other characters Katniss interacts with such as Haymitch, her mentor, and Rue, another contestant, that I really enjoyed, though I might have preferred her story not to have been told in the first person narrative. The story-telling came off weaker for it, probably because of her limited perspective. I think to make some of the setting more believable, a third person narrative might have been stronger. Also, there are the frequent references to ‘you’ the reader, which is awkward since I don’t live in Panem, nor do I feel like I was really sucked into that world. Some of the sentences were just jarring and unpleasant to read, and I’m not talking about the violence.
Flaws aside, the novel had me hooked with its suspense from the ‘reaping’ of the contestants to the start of the games. From there the suspense actually dies, surprisingly, but picks up again in the last half of the novel, satisfying even the pickiest reader. The ending of the first book leaves the reader in suspense for the next novel and this reader ;hungry’ for more.
Would I suggest you read this book? Yes, actually. I went ahead and reviewed this book because I am sure there are other readers like me who were told not to read this book and therefore put it off, but I would encourage you to give it a shot. Who knows, it just might leave you ‘hungry’ for more.