Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Dystopian/Sci-fi, etc.
# of pages: 378 (hb)
Publisher: Scholastic
The Hunger Games @ Parental Book Reviews

An argument breaks out until one tribute silences the others. "We're wasting time! I'll go finish her and let's move on!"I almost fall out of the tree. The voice belongs to Peeta.
- The Hunger Games, pg 168

My Thoughts
This is one of those books that just leaves you so amazed and perplexed. There are so many things I want to talk about and cover, but I probably should just start off with this declaration:
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. Seriously. It was just as wonderful as everybody said it would be.

The world that Collins created was both creative, original, and somewhat otherworldly on one hand, yet shockingly plausible on the other. I was a little hesitant of the premise in the beginning, like "what kind of society would really be that outrageously sick?" Then I thought of movies like Kill Bill and Saw and all those other gory flicks of absolutely no redeeming or artistic value, and I thought, "you know what. I can totally see Panem existing."
I was especially interested to see how THG would stack up against the other dystopian sci-fi that I'd previously read - Uglies. In my opinion, THG wins. It just seemed like a deeper, more substantial book with more memorable characters and less of an agenda, which is always appreciated. The idea of Panem's creation, its turbulent history and ruthless policies were put together effectively yet simply. Collins gives the reader just enough information to be absolutely absorbed in Katniss' world, and she doesn't take forever to start up the story, either, which made reading much more enjoyable.
The characters were memorable, likable, and thoroughly unique. Haymitch, Cinna, Effie, Rue, Katniss, Peeta, and that one guy that only gets like just a few lines and yet everybody's on his "team" - were very well rounded and each contributed nicely to the overall story. And here's something that I wasn't expecting from this book: intrigue. I've heard HG penned as "Survivor"-esque, I've heard it penned as "Gladiator"-esque, but there are also times when it reads kind of like a spy novel a little bit. Just like Katniss, I was also wondering which characters to trust, and which ones were telling the truth, and so forth. Her paranoia seeped through the pages and got into my system, too!
And wow - the romance... okay, let me just say, that as far as romance in a series goes -this is the way to do it! THIS. RIGHT HERE. The romantic aspect did not take center stage, and yet it wasn't just thrown in there willy-nilly (yes I just said willy-nilly) to be interesting. It served a purpose, it was well-written, and it was ADDICTING. :) Wow, Suzanne Collins! All I can say is: I think I've picked my "team"!
Here's one thing I noticed though: Katniss’ voice started out great, but slowly and surely began to get on my nerves. I’m having to pick my words carefully, because if I say she was too bleak and detached, it sounds like I prefer emotional, angsty characters. And I don’t. Katniss is the provider in the family; she’s had to take on the role of an adult, and she lives in a horrible, brutal society. However, I do think that I would have had an easier time relating to her if she was just a little more emotional or vulnerable. It just seemed like Katniss’ frankness was totally understandable at first, but became implausible as the story went along. Her determination and self-reliance actually became a crutch for her, and if Collins did that on purpose, it was a very thoughtful idea! And yes, being thrown into the Games would turn even the most rational person paranoid. Totally get that. But this is why I don’t think it's a good idea to have characters spend too much time alone: their thoughts get way too irrational. I know that Katniss’ life and upbringing have made her a very guarded, closed-off person, but as the story progressed, she started to sound downright selfish. Specifically, the way she treated Peeta and interacted with him seriously got on my nerves. It just seemed interesting to me that she was so ready to assume the worst in him, yet she didn't really treat him any better (at first). But that’s a pet peeve of mine – when girls act bitchy to sweet, patient boys.
I think I’m one of the last people to read THG, and so naturally I’ve heard all about the hype. And the only real criticism I’ve heard of the book (apart from Katniss’ character and narrative voice) has to do with the violence. And you know, The Hunger Games is an annual event in which kids (12-18 years of age) pretty much kill each other in an arena, so umm...you kind of go into the book expecting that. And see, that’s the description I was given, and so I had an expectation that it would be like some kind of Coliseum setting and kids would fight gladiator style. And there would be fight scenes. This is going to sound absolutely horrible, and I apologize in advance, but I feel like I was misled about the content of the book. I was actually surprised at how little violent content there was. Most of the killings happened “off-screen,” and the reader only has Katniss’ ultra-bleak, ultra-dry rendering of events. Not too disturbing, but not very emotional, either. It's my theory that the more intense or disturbing your story’s scenario is, the more emotional and psychological you have to make it in order to be plausible and engrossing. Otherwise, your story just sounds kind of flippant. Now, I can appreciate Collins not getting too gratuitous or throwing in stuff for “shock factor,” but really, all I’m saying is that I think there should have been more “fight scenes.” The Percy Jackson series, to compare, is not very violent at all, and yet Riordan wrote some very detailed, very well-choreographed fight scenes. The Hunger Games actually reminded me more of “Survivor” the reality show rather than “Gladiator,” which was referenced on another review I saw. So anyway… I guess it just boils down to me thinking that this book is not NEAR as provocative as some have made it out to be.

But even with Katniss' room-for-improvement narrative and the somewhat laid-back approach to the subject matter, The Hunger Games is one of the GREATEST books I have ever read. Seriously, this is a new favorite, and I am betting that the rest of the series will be just as amazing. Suzanne Collins is definitely one of my favorite writers. Her creativity and gift for storytelling is practically impossible to top.
THANK YOU to EVERYBODY who has recommended this book and spoken so highly of it. You made me excited to read this, and I am so glad that I did!

Final Grade:
If you haven't read The Hunger Games, I am almost positive you will enjoy it. There are a lot of YA books out here, and this is one of the best - if not THE BEST.

PS - I don't know what's going to happen in Mockingjay or anything, but I think I'll have to throw my lot in with the Peeta folks! :)
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