All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

on October 24, 2010

My mountain of books to read was growing higher and higher, instilling in me a sort of panic of Read something! Read anything, just pick up a book and read it! So I decided to finally pull out The Hunger Games which basically everyone in the whole world has read by now and has been sitting on my shelf for about a month or two. There is no one that has not praised this book – Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer both have impressive statements adorning the front and back covers. When a book has quite a lot of hype like The Hunger Games trilogy, it usually goes one of two ways for me: either I fall straight in with the hype and adore it and join the obsession or I flat out hate it and wonder why the heck everyone is so ga-ga over it.

Fortunately for me, The Hunger Games fits firmly into the first category. Quite simply, this book was incredible. From the very first page I was drawn into this post-apocalyptic world consisting of a new country named Panem rising out of the destruction of what is modern day America, at the centre of which is the all-powerful Capitol, which exists where the Rockies are today. Surrounding the Capitol are 12 Districts, each charged with providing a good or service to the Capitol and each held under a strict rein, often resulting in starvation, bombings, public whippings or executions, rationing of food, power and goods and all sorts of other things that mean that the citizens of the 12 Districts stay nice and compliant. A failed uprising some 75 years ago saw the destruction of District 13, who thought they could take on the capital and win and also gave birth to The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games are a yearly event held by the Capitol to reinforce to the citizens of the Districts that they are powerless. Every year each District must send two of its children – one female, one male aged between 12 and 18- to go into an arena created by the Capitol in what is basically, a fight to the death. Each arena is created especially for the games and can contain any sort of landscape: desert, jungle, snow, open fields, etc. The last person standing is the winner and riches and goods are showered on that District. These sacrifices are mandatory and to make it interesting, poor families can enter their name into the barrel a second or third time in return for something like a years supply of oil and grain. This means that quite often, the weaker, poorer, underfed children have by far the greatest chance of being drawn.

Katniss Everdeen is from District 12, the mining District. Things in District 12 are quite bleak and Katniss, who lost her father some years ago in a mining accident, has been head of her family ever since. She has learned to hunt, trapping and shooting game, some of which she sells at the black market or exchanges for other goods. Every year since she was 12, Katniss’ name has been entered numerous times into the barrel. Once each year as mandatory, three other times per year so that her, her mother and her younger sister can take the rations of oil and grain known as a teserae and the teserae entries are cumulative. This is the first year Katniss’ younger sister Prim’s name will go into the hat and Katniss refuses to allow her to take a teserae. Surely, with only one chance out of thousands, Prim will be safe.

Of course, it is Prim’s name that is drawn from the hat and Katniss cannot bear the thought of her fragile younger sister being sent to the Games so she volunteers to go in her place. The second name drawn to be a ‘tribute’ from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a boy who Katniss goes to school with and who once, when she was starving almost to the point of not being able to continue, risked a beating to throw her two loaves of bread from his family’s bakery. Their ‘mentor’ is Haymitch – the only (alive) District 12 winner of the Games who is now an alcoholic and laughing stock due to his frequent public displays of drunkenness at the reapings (drawing of the names) and public events leading up to The Hunger Games.

Things this year, for District 12 are destined to be different. They are noticed for the first time, thanks to some clever costumes and Haymitch has managed to sober up enough to work out a plan. As The Hunger Games start and the bloodbath begins, independent Katniss may have to rely on a few other people – people who will eventually have to kill her, if she doesn’t kill them first- in order to survive.

Some people think it’s harder to review books you didn’t like, as how do you tread that fine line between criticism and nastiness? For me, it’s always harder for me to review books that I really liked as sometimes I just don’t know where to start, nor do I know how to not make it sound like I’m gushing like a teenage girl at a Fall Out Boy concert. But I can’t praise this novel enough really – where do I start? The well-thought out and constructed world that is the setting? The main characters, so real and genuine and the sort of people you can imagine yourself knowing and liking? The Games themselves, so horrible an event but yet so fascinating in that car crash sort of way where you know you should look away but can’t? The emotions this book stirred in me from horror, to despair, to hope, to anger, to sympathy…a whole myriad.

Katniss is one of the protagonists I’ve most enjoyed in recent times. The tough exterior that she acquired when her father died and her mother couldn’t cope and it fell to her to keep the family fed and alive that hides the fact that underneath, she’s just still a teenage girl who should be out there doing teenage-girl things. Her stubborn independent streak and emotionless facade  hides a gentle heart, especially when it comes to her sister Prim. The scene with Rue (no spoilers, but anyone who has read the novel will know) I found genuinely heartbreaking and I’m not ashamed to say that it (and several other scenes) brought tears to my eyes. The character of Peeta was a nice offset to Katniss and so far I’m torn on  the whole Team Gale (Katniss’ hunting parter and best friend from District 12) and Team Peeta thing. I’ll have to wait and see how future books treat me but I haven’t found a solid bandwagon to jump on just yet.

The Hunger Games themselves are gruesome and as horrible as you’d imagine something like that to be but also infused with a spirit that makes you want to keep reading, keep turning the pages even as the fatalities climb. As this is a trilogy it’s not entirely unpredictable that somehow Katniss will prevail, despite her district’s poor record. I actually couldn’t get enough of reading about the Games, not the deaths, but more the strategies the tributes undertake and the differing obstacles that the Gamemakers put in their path that can be either made to look like they’re mimicking nature, or a completely different device that forces everyone together if they’re too spread out and there isn’t enough conflict that day. As the action unfolds you wonder how it can be possible for both Katniss and Peeta to make it out alive, because in The Hunger Games, there is only one winner. And so you hope for some sort of Hunger Games miracle!

I think I’ve read more YA fiction recently then when I was a young adult! There are so many strong stories out there that you can sink your teeth into – well written, well constructed with wonderful, real characters that you can relate to and feel for. I’m glad that I already have the next two books so that I can get into them right away. It would be torture having to order them now and wait for them to arrive!


Book #82 of my 100 Book Challenge

The Hunger Games fits nicely into my YA Dystopian Challenge, which is hosted by Darren over at Bart’s Bookshelf. This is the 4th title I’ve read for this challenge!

Also read:

The Declaration, by Gemma Malley

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan

3 responses to “The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

  1. […] by Justin Cronin, The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver, Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens, The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Speak, by Laurie Halse […]

  2. Okay, so this “review” about the Hunger Games was amazing. It was so true,the book was the best book i have ever read in my whole entire life! I just started Catching Fire,hopefully its as good as the first! 😀

  3. […] The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games is like a slap to the face, or a wake up call! There’s not many people I wouldn’t recommend this one too – I don’t know anyone that didn’t like it. It’s got something for everyone, no matter what your tastes and I’d especially give it to teenage boys who don’t really like to read at all. The action is non-stop, the premise is chilling but yet easy in that you can put yourself into it with no trouble. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: