September 10, 2018

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games series #1)

by Suzanne Collins

Genres: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 374 pages
Published: September 14, 2008
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Note: Spoilers ahead.

My Goodreads Ratings: 3.5 stars for the writing, 4 stars for the concept

Official Book Summary:

"Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The 'tributes' are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature."


"You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope."

Excerpt (from Chapter 1):

"I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has molded to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag. On the table, under a wooden bowl to protect it from hungry rats and cats alike, sits a perfect little goat cheese wrapped in basil leaves. Prim's give to me on reaping day. I put the cheese carefully in my pocket as I slip outside.

Our part of District 12, nicknamed the Seam, is usually crawling with coal miners heading out to the morning shift at this hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the coal dust out of their broken nails, the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets are empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses are closed. The reaping isn't until two. May as well sleep in. If you can."

My Book Review:

I believe I've now read the entire series three times. I give The Hunger Games 3.5 stars for its writing, but 4 out of 5 stars for its concept.

Collins's dystopian, Juvenalian, satirical design for this novel is pretty fantastic. The way she pulled from classical mythology to create a post-apocalyptic, North American society where citizens are divided, classified, and controlled by a dictatorship is brilliant and horrifying. She does well immediately pulling in her audiences by the end of Chapter One as Katniss volunteers as tribute, thus saving her younger sister's life but possibly sacrificing her own.

The dialogue in this book--and the entire series--is admittedly pretty terrible and cheesy. All of the kissing scenes and Katniss somehow being able to miraculously divine long, meaningful messages from Haymitch's sponsor gifts during the games is ridiculous, but the more forgiving you are of the writing the more you can enjoy the story.

Flaws aside, The Hunger Games is a compelling read and one I've enjoyed rereading for pleasure. This may be one of those rare instances where the movie might be better than the book, but the movie wouldn't be here were it not for the book's success.

One last note: Read the book instead of listening to the audiobook for this series. The audiobook narrator isn't a good match for Katniss's voice and tone. She's a fine reader, but she comes across as a bit too mature for the role of a teenager.

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