Tuesday, October 21, 2008

REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The following is a non-spoiler review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. For a detailed discussion of the novel that includes spoilers, I have teamed up with the insightful and articulate Thea of The Book Smugglers blog for a joint discussion and book review. Please visit The Book Smugglers blog HERE. There is also a great book club discussion at Dear Author HERE.

The Hunger Games is a young adult novel by author Suzanne Collins that takes place in a future country called Panem in which the government strongly controls the industry in each of its thirteen districts and in essence also controls the prosperity of its people. In order to deter its citizens from rebelling, the government, also known as the Capitol orchestrates The Hunger Games every year in which a teenage boy and girl from each of the currently existing twelve Districts are drafted by lottery to fight to the death until there is a sole survivor in a nationally televised performance. The Hunger Games is a game of survival in the most brutal form as supplies are minimal and the arena is a vast, yet enclosed and controlled environment designed to challenge the players survival skills and force battles to the death between the players, or tributes as they are called. The winner of The Hunger Games is awarded an easy life at home, including ample food for his or her entire District for a full year.

The Hunger Games is told from the first person point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl from one of the poorest districts in Panem--District 12, the coal miners. Katniss' father was killed in a mining explosion several years prior, leaving Katniss, her sister Prim, and their mother to fend for themselves. At the time of her father's death, Katniss' mother fell into a serious depression, and Katniss was the one who took care of them, saving them from near starvation. She took to sneaking out of boundaries to hunt, gather roots, berries, leaves and other edible plant foods where she met a boy named Gale. Now they hunt together and sell or trade their catches in the market to support their families. Not only are the hunting partners, but they are also best friends who border on something more.

When officials come to District 12 to conduct the lottery for the Hunger Game tributes, Katniss' twelve year old sister Prim gets selected. Without hesitation, Katniss volunteers to take her place--an event so rare as being a tribute, especially one from the poorest district, means almost certain death. Katniss is then whisked away to the Hunger Games Arena in an undisclosed area in the Capitol along with fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark. The Hunger Games are a brutal and disturbing example of government control and the heroine Katniss is forced to not only rely on her survival skills, but also her wit, intuition and morals as she is faced with the constant question of friend or foe, fight or flee.

The Hunger Games is a powerful story about government control, desperation, and survival. It also exemplifies how individuals have the power to demonstrate their disdain for government controls or force of hand. However, there are a few conditions that could have been better explained, such as why the districts had rebelled against the Capitol years ago that lead the the Hunger Games in the first place. Also, how is it exactly that nationally televising a fight to the death of twenty four teens from around Panem would keep the masses in control and in fear of rebelling against the government? I imagine the politics of Panem will be explored in more depth in the sequels, but I felt a bit of elaboration in this novel would have better supported the value of the Hunger Games as a true deterrent to rebellion.

The Hunger Games is an intense and often violent, yet thought provoking story that shouldn't be missed. The plot is not terribly complex, yet is imaginative and keeps the reader completely engaged in Katniss' fight to survive from the very first page to the very last. Katniss is a strong heroine who knows how to survive under the most difficult situations, she follows her intuition, and she's resourceful. While she still makes mistakes, she is determined to not go down without a fight at least for her sister's sake.

The Hunger Games is a heart racing, blood pumping kind of story that makes the reader think about government, war, and even the equal distribution of basics such as food and medicine for all.

Grade: A

Other reviews:


  1. Hi Christine:

    Great review, this story does sound thought provoking and interesting for a young reader.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Best Regards

  2. Omg!!! your review is amazing. It just makes me want to read it all over again. I have to admit it was my favorite YA read for this year. Never have I reacted so much in my life. There were moments were I could barely breath or tears would be streaming down my face. I cannot wait for my other friends to read it, it does provide for some thought provoking chat.


  3. I've never read this one but I have to say it sounds good. I'm a big fan of stories written in the first person. Yeah, you miss our on the hero's POV but you get a more in depth view of the heroine's.

  4. Wonderful review, Christine! I agree with you wholeheartedly that this is a great, highly engaging book. And the first-person present tense narration totally works.

    I can't wait for the sequel next September (though it is aaaages away)!

  5. ...makes the reader think about government, war, and even the equal distribution of basics such as food and medicine for all...

    But...I do think normally. >_< I fear da nightmare that's gonna come get me after I read this.

    Great review, though. Getting me all tempted...minus the nightmare part.

  6. Wow, this sounds really inventive and substantial. I love that it makes a person think about the world. We don't really see that enough in books these days. At least the ones I'm reading.

  7. Great review as always :D
    Would violent would you say the book is?

  8. This book reminds me of the short story "The Lottery" that I had to read in school. *shudder* I can't imagine living in a world like that.
    Great review.

  9. Lea :: This is a really fantastic story for any reader age 12 and up. If you have a young adult or teen in your world who likes to read, this book would make a great gift.

    DarlingDiva :: Thank you! The Hunger Games is my favorite YA novel of this year, as well. But I think I've only read maybe half a dozen. LOL

    Barbara :: The first person POV was written very very well. And because of the context of the Hunger Games being a competition where the tributes not only needed to survive the wild with minimal supplies, but also fight the other tributes to the death, the impact of the competition would be lost if you knew what the other players were thinking, you know? Not knowing what the other characters were doing or what their motivations were made Katniss' fight to stay alive all the more intense for the reader.

    Thea :: Thanks! And thank you for inviting me to do the joint book discussion and review on The Book Smugglers. That was so much fun. We'll definitely have to do it again for the sequel Catching Fire in September 2009. Gah! So far away!

    little_alys :: I think you should read this book. It is a bit violent at times, but still PG-13, not R. ;)

  10. CJ :: I think you'd really enjoy this novel. It is definitely chock full of food for thought. I definitely didn't cover all of it here to keep my review spoiler free... and even the joint discussion with spoilers that Thea and I did on her blog doesn't even cover all the topics of 'controversy.' I highly recommend it.

    Katiebabs :: Thanks! If made to a film, this would probably still be PG-13.

    Ciara :: I remember reading "The Lottery" too!! Didn't the person in that story get stoned to death or something? Yikes! I think I read that in 6th or 7th grade, but interestingly just remember the unfairness, tragedy and violence of it... not really the why of it.

  11. Thank you Christine! Hmmmm. I've been hearing lots about this book. Another to add to the TBR list!

    I feel blessed to have discovered all of these wonderful blogs (and their wonderful writers and posters :) but you aren't helping my TBR waistline *grin*


Leave a comment! I love to hear what YOU think.
[I apologize, but I've had to disallow anonymous users to comment on my blog due to an influx of spam. I'll change it back as soon as I can. Thanks for understanding.]