Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This page was almost left blank because when I finished it last weekend, I was speechless.

Didn't I love it like everyone else?

Wasn't it amazing?

Am I going to the midnight premier of the movie?

     The reason this particular review is all over the place is because Hunger Games took me all over the place!  To some it is another dystopian novel. To my teenage son, it's a story about survival. I saw it also as a coming of age story, a youthful romance, a story about rebellion in the face of a corrupt government. Even the actors' interviews presented vastly different stories. One said it was about child abuse, one said it was about Hollywood and having to live behind a mask - having to be what everyone else expects.

       The world we know is destroyed and the government has divided into 13 districts. After a rebellion, 12 are left and being subdued by the yearly selection of two "tributes" from their teenagers to participate in a last man standing battle in a Survivor-style arena the size of LA. Families and districts of the winner will be showered with provisions, fame, and wealth.
     16 year old Katniss Everdeen lives in the starving District 12 and gets paired with the baker's son, Peeta. Forced to act as a team, knowing each is required to kill the other in order to win, Katniss protects her emotions by not building a friendship with him. The tributes each hone their unique skills and plan strategies for winning. For Katniss, her adviser, Haymitch, insists she go the opposite direction as the battle and survive on her own. Not only does she heed his advice, her encounters with other tributes reveal her spiritual journey is also leading her opposite of the rest. She finds herself protecting the weaker ones and the ones who use avoidance as well. Soon after, she finds herself bonding with Peeta and he finds himself entirely dependent on her. And this is where the characters find their true individual identities.

       After mulling it over for a week, I've decided that for me, it is a story of preservation of the spirit. Katniss shows in the very beginning that fighting daily to stay alive in District 12 is not just her skill, but her gift.  Peeta helps her realize that there's more going on than just a game of survival. Katniss' spiritual evolution would allow her own death if it meant dying with dignity-preferably if it flew in the face of the Capitol. 

To answer the questions - did I love it? I would recommend it, but cautiously. I love it for its complexity, its intensity, and its originality. However, the brutality mixed with young ages was over the top for young readers. At least when I am a librarian, I will encourage parents to read it first and discuss the violence with their young reader. It needs to be explained to young teens that the government is going to extremes to scare the citizens back into compliance by victimizing it's young ones on a yearly basis. I would hate to recommend it for a teenager who may not grasp the big picture and think kids killing kids is acceptable in some places or situations.

Wasn't it amazing? Yes! So many angles, so many emotions stirred by her writing. She makes you so angry about the exploitation of the teenagers it's sickening!

Am I going to the midnight premier? No. Not that I would turn it down, but my real life has much more pressing things going on at midnight like work and cramming for tests. While I hopped on the fiction bus to read Hunger Games before the movie came out and snatched up the set from someone I recommended it to when it first came out, I'm not sure I trust Hollywood to do it justice enough to turn into a Collins-version-Twihard-fan. If I can, maybe before the movie leaves the theater I'll have a weekend day off and can go see it, but I'll buy DVD for sure. I can't wait to see Katniss in "the girl on fire" costume.

     Overall, Hunger Games was moving, excellently written with a breath-holding ending. I see this as being around for a long time. I think it will soon be replacing some of the older dystopian genre books most junior high teachers assign. In fact, Scholastic already has teaching resources for it here. Lucky for this generation to have Susanne Collins give them something new. I can't wait to read Catching Fire, but my nerves need unraveling first!

I give Hunger Games Photobucket 5 stars!

Check out this trailer made by high school senior Justin Breaux to encourage kids to read


  1. Excellent review!
    I have not read it yet and was debating on whether this book was for me or not.