Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Summery: "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, 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."

Review: The Hunger Games is about a corrupt government punishing its citizens by sentencing their children to fight to death in an brutal, televised, staged environment. It's part "Survivor", part "Battle Royale", part "Lord of the Flies". By design the book is uncomfortable. There's no denying that everyday life for these people is terrible; the "Games" are just the horrific icing on the oppressive cake that is life under the control of the Capitol. Just reading it made me want to escape. It's stifling. In creating this environment Collins made the reader really feel what Katniss was going through. This is the book's greatest accomplishment.

The book is told in the first person and ordinarily this is my favorite type of narrative, but in this case I thought it limited the action in the story. Having only the ability to see Katniss's perspective left little to no pay off for the long tense scenes. I would have really enjoyed some actual combat.

There's a lot of praise for this book, and it certainly is a book that keeps you turning the page, is it worth all the hype? I suppose as much as any book. I liked it, I didn't LOVE it, but I'm pretty particular. I can say that it's better than most books I have read lately and the best book the "Supernatural Book Club" has read so far. Perhaps it was the subject matter that prevented me from loving it. I distrust the government and it stands to reason that I don't like any book that features citizens being oppressed by an all powerful governing body. That's probably it. Everyone else in the book club loved The Hunger Games.

Spoilers ahead:
Other than the subject matter in general, there were a couple other issues that prevented me from loving this book. First was the protagonist and narrator of the story, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is difficult to like; she's hardened, stubborn, automatically distrustful and self involved. I understand that she's self involved because she HAS to be; she's had the task of caring completely for her mother and sister since she was was eleven years old. She's so self sufficient that it's easy to forget she's a sixteen year old girl.

Then there's the love story, which becomes as frustrating for the reader as it does for the characters. Katniss struggles to understand her feelings for Peeta, a boy who clearly is in love with her (and is so absolutely sure about his feelings), and her indecision is absolutely grating. Does she love him? Is she simply playing along to stay alive? The whole thing got really old fast. On the plus side, the love story did make me like Peeta more for being so faithful and loyal to Katniss, willing to do anything to protect her.

Bottom line: I give The Hunger Games a solid B. An easy read and an intriguing story; a great start to a series. The protagonist is a little tough to relate to, but I can see that changing as the series goes on. Collins' ability to make you feel what the characters are feeling partially makes up for the flaws in her main character.


Anna said...

Even though Heather gave it a "B" and says it wasn't great, I think it should be said that she, and a few others of us, are finishing out the series. In fact, I've been brought to tears a few times throughout the series, so I would argue that any book that can bring out emotion like that deserves an "A", at least from my standpoint : )

Offbeat Vagabond said...

Great review. I can't wait to read this. Glad you liked it even though you had some trouble with it. Still, given the buzz surrounding it, it seems like something worth reading at least once. I like what you said there Anna, when you find books that bring out emotions in you, they are worth an A. I love finding books like that. Thank you for the great review hon :)

Hey Lady! said...

Finishing a series doesn't mean I think it's good (check out my review of the Vampire Diaries). I still say first book is a B. I do think the second book was better though, I'd rate that one higher.

@ndone said...

i loooved this books... i cannot believe you just gave it a b ;-)
though i was somehow dissapointed by the third book. i wonder what you will say about it...

TheBookAddictedGirl said...

Brilliant review, you really captured how cut-off Katniss was. Personally, I loved this book, but I'm in love with dystopia at the moment. I'm also in love with Peeta.
The second book is oh-so-much better, so I hope you read on! :)
Thanks for the good review!