The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Cannonball Read IV: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

By me_tiana | Book Reviews | July 27, 2012 | Comments ()


I really wanted to read The Hunger Games and I don't regret my choice because I burned through the pages and developed a serious crush on its heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

As I am sure, thanks to the movie, everybody knows by now the general plot so please bear with me for the first part of this review. [Spoiler alert! -- mswas]

The action takes place in the future, in a country named Panem which consists of 12 Districts ruled from the city called Capitol. To punish the districts for a past rebellion, the Capitol came up with the annual Hunger Games. These are a very cruel televised contest between children of ages from 12 to 18 who must fight and kill each other in a huge outdoor arena until only one remains. From each district two contenders (called tributes) are randomly picked.

The main character, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, volunteers in the place of her younger sister, Prim, who is picked for the Games.

Katniss, Peeta (the boy tribute from district 12) and the other contenders are taken to the Capitol for a brief training and then thrown in the arena which is filled with all kind of deadly traps.

Katniss is a survivor who - at home - was devoted to keeping her mother and sister alive. She is a hunter, very good with the bow and arrow but reluctant when it comes to trusting other people or making friends. That's understandable since the world she lives in is pretty much a version of Orwell's 1984 complete with poverty, hunger, lack of basic utilities and a totalitarian ruling regime that enjoys letting children slaughter each other while their parents and friends are forced to watch it on live TV.

Seeing Katniss fight for her life in the arena is horrific and captivating at the same time. A lot of gruesome images unfold - especially when you think that those hacking away at each other are children. The most disturbing one for me was that of a tribute begging Katniss to kill him after he was slowly gnawed into a bleeding hunk of meat by mutant wolves unleashed by the Gamemakers.

The Hunger Games is as much about the battle to survive in the arena as it is about a journey to self knowledge. Maybe above all it is about what it means to be free and to be yourself in a world where being yourself is punishable by death. Peeta says to Katniss in the beginning of the book that in the arena he would like to die as himself: "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not (...) I keep wishing I could think of a way show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games." His words will make sense to Katniss only in the end of the book, but first she must learn who she is while thrown in the most inhuman circumstances. As the Gamemakers try to strip the tributes of their humanity and turn them into beasts with only one purpose - survival at all costs, she will struggle to discover and remain herself.

I admired Katniss's determination, her unwillingness to simply give up as she went through every inventively sadistic challenge the Gamemakers threw at the tributes and in the end had to face the greatest challenge of all. She had to choose between giving in to the Capitol's Game, becoming their pawn or living on her own terms - even if that meant actually dying. In the end she doesn't die and she wins the games through an ultimate act of defiance that gives a new dimension to the story.

Katniss's hate for the government, already lit by the unfair life led in the impoverished districts, is fueled by the impossible choices she must face in the arena and becomes the starting point for the next book of The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of me_tiana's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • "Hunger Games. These are a very cruel televised contest between children of ages from 12 to 18 who must fight and kill each other in a huge outdoor arena until only one remains."

    So what age is this suitable reading for? I wouldn't let my 10 y.o. daughter see the movie (all her friends did) because of the subject matter, but now she wants to read the book.

  • mswas

    Why don't you read it along with her?

  • competitivenonfiction

    I'd say this depends on the maturity of the kid. There are some kids who could handle it at as young as 10, but there may be others who should wait. I'd suggest reading it yourself to see what your thoughts are - it's a great book and a fast read. In my opinion, the books (and the movie for that matter) are less needlessly violent than half the cartoons out there, and the violence is presented as horrific in nature so there is good context for discussions.

    Again this depends on the kid. For example, I wouldn't take my niece to see it, but I have a cousin the same age as her, who would be able to process it and who would be willing to sit down afterwards and tell me what she thinks about what she just saw and ask questions about my thoughts on it.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    This series is on my list of "already read, gotta write the damn review" books. I was stumped about what to say, since everyone already knows. Great job doing what I couldn't!

  • BWeaves

    Why can't WE have reality television like this? I'd watch the Kardashians fight to the death, but I won't watch them shopping or getting married.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I'm pretty sure that even if it was about the Kardashians fighting to the death, we'd still be treated to images of them buying weapons, and having hissy fits in the training ring.

  • Jezzer

    One thing I love about the Hunger Games is how the author manages to generate tension with first person narration simply by using present tense. The use of present tense evokes a sort of tunnel vision in the reader, keeping the focus on what is happening in the here and now and preventing the brain from thinking about how a first person narrator is obviously going to survive the events.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Well done.

    I had never heard of the series until reading about the movie here, so I toddled over to amazon and downloaded it. I couldn't put it down, and I immediately bought the other two (kindle version) books as well. That's one good thing about coming into a series late, you don't have to wait ten years between releases (I'm looking at you George RR Martin.)

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