Book review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Book blurb (from Good Reads)

The Hunger Games coverIn 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 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.

My thoughts

Some books are best savoured slowly, reading a chapter every day on the commute to and from work, pondering all the possible directions the story might take. The Hunger Games is not one of those books. It is a book that needs to be devoured, preferably in one sitting. I started reading it on a Friday night, read late into the evening, woke up and continued reading on Saturday. I was actually annoyed that I had a birthday dinner for me and my dad that night, because all I wanted to do was keep reading. I finished it that Sunday, postponing things like doing the washing and the grocery shopping and writing my Sunday night blog post just so I could reach that final page.

Why is The Hunger Games so addictive? For me, it was the brutal-yet-fascinating plot. Quite frequently, I felt sick with anticipation and concern as I sped through the scenes, wondering how Katniss was going to escape alive. And as the story developed, I became attached to other characters competing in the Games – which just made it even worse. With only one competitor allowed to live, people I cared about were going to die no matter what – it doesn’t get any more gripping than that.

The writing style – first person, present tense – added to the immediacy of the story as you see every horrific event unfold in real time through Katniss’s eyes. You also get to hear her thoughts, which are often very different to the persona she portrays to the watchful cameras of the Capitol. I know a lot of people don’t like present tense, but I love it and felt it suited this story perfectly.

Katniss is one hell of a main character. She epitomises the word ‘heroine’, with her courage, perseverance and resourcefulness. But while I marvelled at her strengths, I was simultaneously shaking my head at her emotional ineptitude. This only served to make her more realistic – we all have flaws, and growing up as a provider and protector in such a brutal world would no doubt take a toll on your emotional capacity.

The Big Brother/reality TV element of this book was another compelling factor. For me, the ‘Games’ were like Survivor crossed with Gladiator – to the death, on live TV. The prospect both sickened and fascinated me, and made me stop and question the direction our world is taking. Already, many of us live a voyeuristic life and sometimes I hear comments about reality TV contestants that make me wonder if the person has forgotten they’re talking about a real human being.  I don’t know where the trend towards reality TV will take us, but I truly hope (and thankfully doubt) it isn’t anything close to what’s presented in The Hunger Games.

Apart from Katniss, the two characters I connected with the most were Peeta (the male competitor from Katniss’s district) and Rue (the youngest contender in the Games). As a baker’s son, Peeta comes from a more privileged background than Katniss. As a result, he doesn’t have the same survival skills as she does, but his best asset is his pure heart. At twelve years old, Rue is easily the most vulnerable competitor but she has a hidden resourcefulness that was fascinating to discover. For fear of spoilers, I’m not going to say any more about either Peeta or Rue except that I truly enjoyed getting to know them.

The only criticisms I have of this book are quite minor. One of the supporting characters, Effie Trinket, came across as two-dimensional throughout the entire book, which is never a good thing.  And… I would’ve liked more from the ending. I know, I know – it’s a trilogy. but still, I’d hoped we might’ve received just a little bit more closure at the end of the first book. The main problem with this lack of resolution is I’m now itching to see what happens in books two and three when I already have a pile of books eagerly awaiting my attention (not to mention my own manuscript!).

I have no doubt that I won’t be able to resist the pull of this series for long. I just hope that when I do pick up book two, it’s the first day of a long weekend so I can do nothing but read!

4 & a half stars

My review: 4.5 stars


Your turn

Have you read The Hunger Games? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you will? Andrew Leon of Strange Pegs commented that he’s only ever heard girls raving about this book (never guys), so if you’re a guy and you’ve read it, I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts!

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable.).

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19 Comments

Filed under Book review, Writing

19 responses to “Book review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  1. As i believe I’ve mentioned before 🙂 I loved The Hunger Games, like wise Catching Fire. Although all three were terrific, I found Mocking Jay to be a bit of an anticlimax and it was my least favorite. I didn’t like the ending. But that’s all I’m saying 🙂 I’ll wait til you’ve read it and see what you think!

    If you haven’t read Divergent, it’s another great read in a similar vein, but be forewarned – the second book isn’t out yet! I found out the hard way 🙂

    • Interesting. You’re not the first person I’ve heard say that Mocking Jay is not as strong as the others. Hopefully my expectations have been lowered so I’ll love it anyway!

      I haven’t read Divergent but I have read a number of reviews about it. For some reason, I’ve never gone, ‘I have to read that!’ Maybe I should re-think that… 🙂

  2. Oh, I SO loved this book! I’ve also read the second one, but am “saving” the third one just a little longer, because once I’ve read it it’ll all be over… What I thought was depicted well in this series (aside from all the things you’ve mentioned) is the love triangle. I won’t give details (in case some commenters haven’t read it yet), but I often feel with love triangles that the girl is just stringing two guys along. In this series Katniss really has NO choice about what she does, becase people WILL DIE if she acts the wrong way! It adds wonderfully to the suspense!

  3. I loved this book. I’m pretty sure it was my introduction to dystopian YA.

  4. I am one of those who does not like present tense. I find it tacky. But I loved The Hunger Games. Like any good dystopia, it holds up a mirror to some of the more disquieting aspects of our culture.

  5. Thanks for your review of Hunger Games, Cally. You say the story is addictive: please reassure me it does not leave the reader with a food obsession, as I already have enough of that. On the other hand, if you think the novel would help me lose weight, I will read it immediately.

    • Hahaha, don’t worry Martin. The title is a little misleading. I believe the games are called ‘The Hunger Games’ because the competitors are not fed and must find their own food (or starve). There is nothing remotely appetising about the book – if anything, it will probably turn you of your food!

  6. Libby Brain

    I couldn’t read your whole book review Cally because after your introduction I SO wanted to read the book myself I was scared you may give too much of the story away. By the way, can I borrow it? Thanks Cal,
    Love Mum

    • Hehehe. Don’t worry, Mum. I’ve written the review without plot spoliers. But I’m the same – if I know I’m going to read a book I prefer to not read reviews until after I’ve read the book myself. Don’t want other people’s opinions skewing my reading experience.

      My copy of the book is on my Kindle, which makes it a bit hard to lend. I could lend you my Kindle if you promise that you will read the book within a month?! 🙂

  7. JessB

    Wow, you’re so right about The Hunger Games being a book to devour. I’ve done this with a few books, and it’s always a good sign for me.

  8. Matthew (Bibliofreak.net)

    I’ve just finished this, and am moving on to the second book. I absolutely whizzed through it, although that was wholly down to the quality of the book. So far, a little disappointed with the second book, but hoping it will pick up.

    My review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  9. Molly

    Wow. I was barely able to put this book down for a second after the first few pages got me completely hooked. Normally it takes a week to read a book, but now I read this in 24 hours. Suzanne Collins here has an immediacy to it that, when combined with the very dramatic life-or-death plot, is incredibly compelling. It’s entertaining, and incredibly disturbing all at once. They say great art leaves you changed after you experience it… and this book definitely did that. Suzanne Collins has, with one amazing work, propelled herself onto my top shelf.

    Have a nice day,
    Molly

  10. Pingback: What I didn’t like about The Hunger Games series | Cally Jackson Writes

  11. Amy

    Great review Cally! This is definitely one book that was tough to get out of my head after reading. I hope the movie adaptation can capture the greatness of the story told. But I look forward to seeing it either way, lol. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  12. Bryan

    Definitely the best of the three books. I couldn’t put it down! I kind of wish I could read the book from the perspective of other tributes throughout the book! haha. I loved foxface, her cleverness really intrigued me. I love clever writing and I thought Suzanne Collins really captures it with all of her characters. I love this book, thinking of if I could be just as quick witted as Katniss.

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