Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Book Review - Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Published by: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: October 1st, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 374 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

In the land that was once North America is Panem, a nation of districts that bow to the capital. Once there were 13 districts, then a revolution and an uprising led to 12 districts and the Hunger Games as punishment. Every year two tributes, a boy and a girl between 12 and 18, are sent from each district to participate in the Hunger Games for the capital's amusement and their continued obedience. The sole winner is chosen by them killing every other child out in the arena, which is designed by the gamemakers to be harder and more difficult then the year before. We follow Katniss, a poor girl from District 12. Only one person has ever won from her district, Haymitch, so people reaped from District 12 are seen as fodder for the canons, especially when Katniss' little sister Prim is chosen during her first reaping. Katniss then volunteers to take Prim's place, Prim was supposed to be safe her first year... Her co-competitor is Peeta, the baker's son who once showed her a kindess and who she will actually regret killing. They make their way to the capital, with Haymitch and Effie, their bubbly "handler." Once in the capital they are transformed into the capital ideal of what contestents should look like and then trained up a bit on basic combat and then sent into the arena. The arena is where the majority of the action happens and where alliances are forged and shattered and where the winner is finally crowned. I will not spoil the ending, but it's pretty easy to guess seeing as the book is written in first -person narration.

The Hunger Games is immensely popular, with it's follow up Catching Fire out yesterday. Personally, it took a long time for me to get into it, but I am glad that I stuck with it. I kept repeating, wait until the games begin to make my final decision, as the games are what the book is really about, and that's where I fell for the book. I didn't have issues with the idea of the games themselves, this seemed like a plausible post-apocalyptic, feral society thing to do, I had problems with the other "reality television" elements. While the game itself feels filtered through the future society, the "make-over" and the appearances of the capital's inhabitants seemed a little too colorful, candy coated and too obvious a reference to shows like Extreme Makeover and America's Next Top Model with a hint of Project Runway. I get that this is a reflection of our society, at times it seemed like she was beating me over the head with it. Also every time she mentioned the outrageous colors of hair of the capital's inhabitants, all sleek, shiny and funky I was reminded a little to closely of the movie The Fifth Element, and I am sure she did not want her book to be thought of in the same light as that horrid movie. I know it was to contrast the stark existence of Katniss to the elite, but it was too comical and heavily reminded me of the Dr. Who episode when the two robots try to "extreme-make-over" Captain Jack with a chainsaw. Which I might add, Dr. Who did very well and Suzanne Collins not so much.

The overall plot structure was a bit too predictable, has a first person narrator really died that often? Plus with Haymitch trying to "couple" Katniss and Peeta I kept thinking, perhaps the rules might change...sure enough I was right. But I admire Collins in that despite the plot's overall predictability, I was still glued to the book. A final thought, I find Katniss a little too hard and heartless at times. I get that it's the society she has been raised in and the life she leads, but some of the things she does to poor Peeta. She can't be that oblivious can she? Also Haymitch's "strategy" for the games with regards to Peeta and Katniss sometimes veered on the edge of too much, almost like they are being pushed into a physical relationship, a bit like they are whores. But in the end, whatever I might say, I can't wait for the next installment, I have too many questions I want answered to cover here, but hopefully I will have some answers shortly (she types as she reaches for Catching Fire).


Good review... could you hand Catching Fire to me when you're done??? :) Need to get that one!

Awesome review. I agree with you on the sleek thing, I'm glad you decided to wait until the games before you passed judgement, also with the whole 1st person narrator, that's exactly how I felt, I knew she was going to survive, because it was first person.

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