Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press; Reprint edition (July 3, 2010)
ISBN # 0439023521
384 pages
Author Website

My Grade: A-

Plot / Premise:

I’ve decided to copy and paste the plot summary from the below source. I always feel like I don’t do plot summaries justice and I’m only regurgitating what other people have said and … okay, fine. I’m lazy. I’d rather concentrate on character development and writing style.

From Barnes and Noble:

In 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 alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survived.

Overall Thoughts

This book is awesome, gruesome and thought provoking, it’s also not for kids under 10, at least, in my opinion.

Seriously.

I will be the first to admit, this book is disturbing. It’s graphic without being off putting, but it sucks so much of your imagination that it’s very hard to put down.

In fact, Dude (my oldest son), and I read it at the same time. We had two bookmarks in the book for a while. He would read it at night before he went to sleep and I snuck in some reading time during the day while he was at school.

This was a first in our history – both reading the same book and both loving it. So in that respect alone, giving me something in common with my very quiet and withdrawn 18-year old son was worth the grade right there. So thank you, Ms. Collins, well done.

Moving on …

The Story

One of the reasons the story attracted my son’s attention was because of the premise: a post-apocalyptic world setting. He plays a lot of video games with that premise – characters that must do whatever it takes to survive in a world that has been destroyed by either man-made elements or natural disasters.

There have been many movies made with this premise and it continues to be a popular premise because it’s fascinating to watch normally mild-mannered, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly sort of people suddenly turn into savages that kill without (seemingly) a second thought. It’s a true test of character and I think we’re all just a bit fascinated about how the survival instinct develops.

So when I told Dude about this book, I could immediately tell he was interested. And I must admit, so was I.

I don’t DO horror, but I DO enjoy a good thriller and that’s how I would sum this book up. The story is compelling and Collins does a really good job making the reader care about this tough-as-nails girl who was forced to grow up and take over her household by learning to hunt and feed them but also sprinkles in moments where Katniss reveals that she’s a typical 16-year old girl with insecurities and vanity issues.

In essence, I thought Katniss was a well-rounded character and I finished the book feeling like I knew her pretty well.

The story is about Katniss’ struggles to survive “the hunger games.” She’s forced to kill her peers in order to be allowed to go home. But the story opens with Katniss at home, with her mother and sister, and her adventures with her best friend, Gale, while they sneak out of their district into the woods to illegally hunt and bring home food so their families will not starve. I thought it was wise of Collins to begin the story here, as opposed to just beginning with her adventures in the games, as this gave the reader a sense of what this character was made up of. It set the foundation so the reader was prepared for that foundation to be shaken later.

Though the humane part of me was disturbed by the fact that she was forced to kill other people in order to survive, I was utterly fascinated that she was mentally capable of actually doing it. Katniss didn’t kill because she enjoyed it, she killed because that was the only way she would get back to her mom and sister, who she adored more than any other human being. She simply didn’t have a choice and Collins does a really nice job showing the reader that.

The underlining theme of this story was big government and what can happen when we allow our government to become all powerful. The people in this book were completely and totally dependent on their government to feed them and take care of them, and of course, they don’t do a very good job. People are starving, jobs are scarce or non-existent and it’s a very bleak and depressing world indeed. (I could totally go off topic and preach about the parallels in our world today, but I’ll spare you the agony).

The Hunger Games, which interestingly enough are treated as an annual festival complete with people dressing up in their finest clothes, though everyone dreads them and prays that their children are not the “lucky” ones to be drawn, is a program that keep people in check. They are designed to scare people into submission – an exercise in power – to discourage the people from taking a stand and overthrowing the government.

Collins’ writing was seamless, at least for me. It never felt jerky and it certainly didn’t jerk me out of the story. She did an excellent job of balancing description, action and conflict and was quite adept at the chapter cliffhangers (hence the reason I stayed up late one night to finish it). It’s precisely the kind of writing I admire and aspire to imitate in my own writing.

This story makes you think about the bigger picture … something I think is sorely lacking in our society today. Everyone is so focused on the short term fixes, but what about the long term repercussions? Our society could very well end up like the society in this story.

Think about it.

*Side Note: It never ceases to amaze me, the number of people who claim that an author plagiarized off another author. Sure, it happens occasionally, but I think most people don’t understand what plagiarism is. I found two comments on “The Hunger Games” reviews that I thought were worth printing here. To those people who like to cry plagiarism because ideas are similar, read on …

Plagiarism? Plagiarism is copying. It does NOT cover ideas, it covers the expression of the ideas. I haven’t read Battle Royale, but I read the Long Walk a few years ago, and the similarity to The Hunger Games is trivial, like claiming Melville “stole” Moby-Dick from the Bible, or Hemingway “stole” The Old Man and the Sea from Moby-Dick, or Collins “stole” the idea of bows and arrows from Robin Hood.


You can’t copyright an idea. If you could, Jane Yolen could have made a fortune suing J.K. Rowling for “ripping off” Wizard’s Hall to write Harry Potter. And L.J. Smith could have sued Stephenie Meyer for writing about teenage vampires who lust after human girls during class. And Shakespeare (if he were still around) could have sued Disney for stealing much of the plot of Hamlet for The Lion King…

P.S. I wish Dude would hurry up and finish “Catching Fire,” the second book in the trilogy; I want to read it!

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