REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Dear Ms. Collins,
I have no doubt that many people will compare this book to the Japanese novel, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. How can they not? Both books take place in dystopian futures and feature oppressive governments that require children to compete in a last man standing survival game. And while it’s true there are similarities in premise and plot, I think your book brings enough new to the table that it’s easily one of the must read young adult novels of the year.
Set in the future, The Hunger Games takes place long after natural disasters, war, disease, and famine destroyed society as we know it. From the ruins of North America rose the nation of Panem, which consisted of a powerful Capitol ruling over thirteen surrounding Districts. The Districts didn’t like the Capitol’s oppressive rule very much and soon rose up together in a rebellion.
The results were disastrous. The Capitol quelled the uprising in twelve Districts and completely annihilated the thirteenth. As punishment, the Capitol created the Hunger Games. Each year, every District must send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve to eighteen as tributes. The tributes then fight each other to the death in an arena until only one person is left. These are not normal arenas. Armed with immense technology, the Capitol creates natural terrains that are enormous and range from forests to deserts to arctic landscapes. They can control the weather, climate, and even alter the terrain while the Games are in play. All this while the Games are televised across Panem, for the entertainment of the Capitol and for the sorrow of the Districts. This is the Capitol’s ultimate tool of fear, to keep the Districts in check so they can never rise up in rebellion again. It says, “Look at what we can do. We can take your children and make them kill each other while you watch. And you can’t stop us.”
The book opens on the day of reaping for the seventy-fourth Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen is a coal miner’s daughter whose father died five years ago in an explosion and has taken care of her family ever since. Hunting and foraging illegally in the forest just outside District 12’s electrified borders, Katniss sells and trades game, fruit, and vegetables to the town’s black market, officials, and tradespeople like bakers and butchers. It’s just enough for her family to get by.
The reaping’s lottery system is weighted so that the older the child the greater the chance of being selected. In addition, children can receive a year’s ration of grain and oil in exchange for another entry into the lottery, and that is also cumulative. At sixteen, Katniss is entered twenty times — the normal 5 times for her age and 15 more for the annual rations she receives for her, her mother, and her younger sister. But even though the number of entries increases your chances of selection, luck doesn’t work that way and it is Primrose, Katniss’s twelve-year-old sister, whose name is drawn even though she’s only entered once.
Katniss’s choice is automatic:
There must have been some mistake. This can’t be happening. Prim was one slip of paper in thousands! Her chances of being chosen so remote that I’d not even bothered to worry about her. Hadn’t I done everything? Taken the tesserae, refused to let her do the same? One slip. One slip in thousands. The odds had been entirely in her favor. But it hadn’t mattered.
Somewhere far away, I can hear the crowd murmuring unhappily as they always do when a twelve-year-old gets chosen because no one thinks this is fair. And then I see her, the blood drained from her face, hands clenched in fists at her sides, walking with stiff, small steps up toward the stage, passing me, and I see the back of her blouse has become untucked and hangs out over her skirt. It’s this detail, the untucked blouse forming a ducktail, that brings me back to myself.
“Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!”
There’s some confusion on the stage. District 12 hasn’t had a volunteer in decades and the protocol has become rusty. The rule is that once a tribute’s name has been pulled from the ball, another eligible boy, if a boy’s name has been read, or girl, if a girl’s name has been read, can step forward to take his or her place. In some districts, in which winning the reaping is such a great honor, people are eager to risk their lives, the volunteering is complicated. But in District 12, where the word tribute is pretty much synonymous with the word corpse, volunteers are all but extinct.
District 12 is the laughingstock of Panem. They are the poorest, the hungriest, the most beaten down of all the nation. In the history of the Games, only two of their tributes have won, and only one of those is still living and he’s the town drunk. No one expects the District 12 tributes to have a chance, but I don’t think anyone outside of District 12 fully understands Katniss’s will to survive.
This is a gripping story. With twists, turns, and lots of action, it kept me on the edge of my seat. Not only that, there’s no denying the power of its themes. War and violence leave scars on the next generation. Haymitch may be the town’s middle-aged drunk but can you blame him? Not did he survive a brutal battle to the death, now as a victor he must mentor future tributes. That hurts. Imagine getting to know these children, coaching them, hoping for their victory… and then watching them die. Year after year, that has been Haymitch’s fate. Of all the things he could have resorted to in order to cope, drinking might be one of the least destructive options available.
There’s also the gulf of experience between the highest social elite and the dirt poor. Life in District 12, which supplies coal to the Capitol (District 12 is located in what was once Appalachia), starkly contrasts against the excesses of the Capitol. Katniss’s stylist, the quietly subversive Cinna, says upon meeting her over dinner: “How despicable we must seem to you.” And it’s easy to see why. Katniss has lived a life being hungry, subsisting on a diet of squirrels, pine bark, and roots. Even Katniss’s fellow tribute, the baker’s son Peeta grew up on a diet of stale bread. Meanwhile in the Capitol, you can get any kind of food you wish by pushing a button.
There are also other things. How voyeuristic reality tv is. How perverse it is that we enjoy watching other people suffer. I think everyone has watched at least one episode of a reality tv show for the trainwreck factor. The Hunger Games is that ramped up to the extreme, with the added complication that the Gamemasters will spice things up to keep things interesting for its audience. If it means throwing fireballs at the tributes to drive them together or rigging the game so that two lovers will have to face each other in the end, they will do it.
Katniss is one of the strongest heroines I’ve encountered in YA fiction. She’s smart and clever. Her skills in illegal hunting and foraging gives her an advantage in this year’s Games. She can hunt her own food. She knows which plants are safe to eat. She knows what she needs to do to survive. I admit I have a fondness of half-feral girls and Katniss is definitely that. She’s not soft. She can be hard. But I don’t think her life’s allowed much for it. She does what she must to survive, so that she can return home to her sister, even if it means taking another life, even if it means pretending to be in love. I thought the romantic subplot in which Katniss pretends to love Peeta in order to gain the audience’s sympathy was very clever, even if it becomes rapidly apparent that it was never an act for Peeta.
But despite it all, not once does Katniss lose her humanity. I could feel her hunger to return home. Her love for her younger sister, how it drove her to take Primrose’s place, how it drives her to make an alliance with another District’s tribute because that girl resembles Primrose. Katniss’s desire to never marry and have children because she can’t bear the thought of subjecting a child to this fate. She doesn’t enjoy the Game. She still knows what it means to have mercy. It makes her struggle all the moire poignant.
I’m not sure if this is the first in a series. I think it could be, but readers who are series-phobic can be assured that it ends in a good place and stands well alone. But I do hope there will be more books because I can’t help but feel that this is only the beginning in the Capitol’s downfall. Katniss’s ultimate actions only support that. The Capitol’s totalitarian regime is so oppressive and overt displays of political dissent have been all but crushed that it is through subtlety that the Districts show their disapproval:
“Come on, everybody! Let’s give a big round of applause to our newest tribute!” trills Effie Trinket.
To the everlasting credit of the people of District 12, not one person claps. Not even the ones holding betting slips, the ones who are usually beyond caring. Possibly because they know me from the Hob, or knew my father, or have encountered Prim, who no one can help loving. So instead of acknowledging applause, I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong.
I’ve looked at this book from multiple angles, trying to find flaws. But I can’t and honestly, if I have to work that hard to find some, I probably won’t. This is not a book for everyone. It does not flinch. There are parts which are unsettling and uncomfortable. I realize the comparisons to Battle Royale are unavoidable but I think this is a book all on its own. A
This book can be purchased in hardcover from Amazon or Powells. No ebook format.
I bought this book after reading Jia’s review in drafts. I thought it was fantastic and can hardly wait for the sequel next year. I think that readers who liked Ann Aguirre’s books would like this one. Not because the world building is the same but because of the nature of the heroine. I think “feral” is a great decriptor for Katniss. Feral, yet vulnerable.
I would also like to add that Jane and I have been chatting about the book ever since she finished reading it. It’s one of those kinds of reads. You’ll find all sorts of things to talk about.
I read this book several months ago and I have to tell you I have been championing it around the office every since. I cannot wait for the sequel. It has been a very painful wait I must tell you. One other book that came to mind when reading Hunger Games was The Long Walk by King, who just gave it a nice review in EW btw. It is a true cross-over. I truly enjoyed the fact that the reader was never spoken down to. The violence was surprising and I can’t imagine it being any other way. YA is a misnomer when classifying this book.
Great review, Jia. I’m not huge into YA, so I probably would not have heard of The Hunger Games if not for this site. Your review was thorough and intriguing, and the quoted portions helped me get an idea of what the book’s narrative style is like. Every aspect of The Hunger Games sounds fascinating. I definitely want to read it.
When I first read this review a few days ago (we can sometimes preview each other’s reviews in WordPress) I emailed Jia to say how much I enjoyed it. A very enticing review of a book that really intrigues me. I hope to read it.
I am def. giving this book another look.
This sounds really good. I’m adding it to my pile of books to get next time I’m at Borders.
This book is amazing. I hate lending people books but I’ve been shoving it down my friends’ throats and even letting them read my precious copy just to ensure they actually read it. Everybody I know who hasn’t read it is getting it for Christmas.
Tivo Queen – I am arranging a tour of my copy to a couple of friends. I think even Ned is interested in reading it. I think I’ll have to buy another copy.
Jia and I have been talking about it and speculating on the future of the book. Maybe we’ll have to have book club read/discussion later in the month.
I vote book club! I’m heading to the bookstore Wednesday night to get a copy :)
Thank you for the review. This sounds so interesting that I’m going to buy a copy — my first non-Romance novel in a long time. I suspect my husband would want to read this as well.
Amy: I think this book has a very wide appeal, to people of all ages — both teens and adults — and to both women and men.
A book club-type thing would fun.
I almost picked this up for my 13 year old daughter the other day, but wasn’t sure. Now I’m going to have to go back and pick it up. It sounds like a great book for both of us to read and discuss.
Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Jia.
I read this book in one Sunday afternoon and couldn’t say enough good things about it. I was really surprised when my husband picked it up and started reading it. He finished it the same day. His comment “When will the second book be out”. We both enjoyed it very much and we are grandparents!
My family read The Underland Chronicles by Collins this summer. My eight year old was hooked and I’ll admit there were a few times I wondered what the hell I was doing reading these books with some one so young, but Collins is a phenomenal author, and we’ve been trying to decide if we want to get this one and start it out as family reading time when we’re done with the MayBird books. The only thing stopping me is the fact that they sound like books for the older set. While Bear can handle a lot and reads well above his level, I still worry.
Anyway, war is a theme in the Underland books as well, and while it was tough at times to read, my son (hell, all of the family) walked away from those 5 books changed.
I think I’m going to have to get this one, hide it from the family until I’ve read it and decide whether or not to the kiddos are ready for it :)
I’m so intrigued. Can anyone who read this give me an idea of what age range this might be appropriate for? I’m looking for ideas for my mother/daughter book club, but the girls are only 5th graders (age 10-11), so I’m worried this may be a bit mature for them. I will most likely read it myself regardless, but any input is welcome. Thanks!
Personally, I think it’s fine for ages 12 and up. I just hopped on over to Collins’s website and she also says 12 and up, so I can only assume Scholastic says something similar. It may be a case where it’ll be fine for some book club members but not for others.
I do feel that this book might be a bit too mature for ChariDee’s 8-year-old, especially given a few of the scenes (one in particular involving a net and a spear, in my opinion), but again, this is something best left for individual parents to decide.
Very awesome review, Jia. I think you summarized the book perfectly.
When I heard that the book was out at Barnes and Noble, I shrieked so loud that my Dad started yelling at me to calm down and my Mom was [pretty much pressured] to go to the bookstore with me to get it. And I must say, all that drama was very much worth it.
I have read the Underland Chronicles several million times (not literally, but probably will), and have loved them for…wow, three years now. Obsessive love. As in worship-Ripred love.
The Hunger Games forum [click my name] and I can’t decide which series is better. O_o Some people are stuck to worshipping Ripred (as I am), and some are just really really excited about the Hunger Games trilogy.
I think we’ll have to wait for the second book for more opinions. :(
does anyone know if there will be a sequel? it’s kind of a cliff hanger ending.
It’s a trilogy with each book published one year apart.
that’s good i guess, but i don’t know if i can wait a year to read the next. :)
The second book is called Catching Fire. Will be released September 2009.
P.S. Click on my name…unofficial site for Hunger Games.
I loved this book so much! When I finished, I flipped back to the beginning and read it again. When I’m older, I’m going to name my kid Katniss. or Peeta
Does anyone know if catching fire will be about Katniss and Peeta or the next hunger games? Because this has got to be my favorite book i have ever read, and i find the end a little sad.(could just be me though)I hope that Katniss forgets about that Gale loser. Also, email if you agree, at [email protected]
Wonderful review. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.
This was okay, but there were a lot of questions that I would rather have had answered at the beginning of the book. It would have been nice to have a stand alone title, like Unwind. My students do seem to like it, though.
this really touched me “Haymitch may be the town's middle-aged drunk but can you blame him? Not did he survive a brutal battle to the death, now as a victor he must mentor future tributes. That hurts. Imagine getting to know these children, coaching them, hoping for their victory… and then watching them die. Year after year, that has been Haymitch's fate. Of all the things he could have resorted to in order to cope, drinking might be one of the least destructive options available.” i own a copy and i’m doing a book review for lang-arts, your review was very helpful and i like how you put this together.
this book was awsome! it was suspensful and i loved Katniss. She was witty, cunning, skilled, but was still weak at heart like every person is, but still very strong. I loved her anger and her clever thinking. I alos loooooved the parts with Peeta. However, I did not enjoy the ending that much because Peeta get’s hurt. He finds out that Katniss’s “love” for him was only an act and that she never really loved him, when he so clearly loves her. It aggrivated me how she kept thinking of Gale. I think that her and Gale are more just like best friends or brotherly sisterly love. I realllly hope that Katniss ends up with Peeta and realizes that she loves him too.
Hi. Im Lillie Snow and I am 13.
I think “The Hunger Games” would make a really good movie! Anyone else thinks so?? I have just finished reading the novel and have scowered the internet to see if the second novel had come out yet. To my luck it has not! PLEASE WRITE FASTER (as I will definately know this novel off by heart!)
If it is made into a movie I would definately audition as I am an actress, for film and TV and musical theatre. I wouldn’t mind being Katniss but to be honest I would love to play Rue, even though I am to old. I love her character. Oh and Peeta would have to be mega cute ( tehe)
Lots of love
Oh Im sorry I almost forgot to ask!
At the end of the book, when it was announced there was only one winner, why didn’t they just refuse and bond together against everything that was thrown at them??
If you get what I mean??
PS- surely the must have human rights?
They didn’t refuse because one of them would end up dying first. Like, they couldn’t plan exactly if they were to both survive. One of themwould most likely end up dying and they would get taken in the hovercraft. Besides, Peeta wouldn’t have been able to survive through much mroe even if Katniss helped him. He wasn’t very strong from the wounds. The Gamemakers would find a way to kill one of them. By committing a double suicide, they would each be dead, but they wouldn’t have to live without one another. And if they one of them killed the other, they would have to live with the fact that they killed someone they loved.
I thought, after I finished The Hunger Games, that the sequel was coming out in March 2009. I was sadly mistaken. I cannot wait until September!!!!!!!!!!!! Pure torture…
Oh, my, goodness! This book was soo cool! It was action packed, and at first i was doubtful that i would like it, because i’m more of a romantic novel kinda girl, but i honestly couldn’t put it down! I am a Twilight fanatic, and i totally love those novels, but this book definately ranks up there. I can’t wait for Catching Fire! maybe i’ll be lucky and get it for my birthday in September….hmmm……a definate wish list item!
Here’s an add on: Lillie, I agree most adamently. They should definately make it a movie… I would go and watch it at least twice in theaters!
This is one of the few books I’ve read that’s narrated by a girl but is still gender-neutral. All of my girl friends love it, but a handful of my guy friends have read it, too, and they love it just as much! I think there’s enough adventure and violence in it to be a book stereotypical guys would like, and enough romance and thought-provoking ideas to capture girls’ interests, too. I don’t how Suzanne Collins did it, but she did. Now I can’t wait for the sequel, Catching Fire!
this book was awsome. and like Celia i love the fact that it’s gender neutral. i hope that catching fire is at least as good as the hunger games! I’m not sure i want them to make a movie incase they butcher it, but if they’re going to do a good job on it, they definetly should! i really hope that Peeta and Katniss get together!!!!
PS- has anyone heard what CATCHING FIRE is about?
I loved this book….just finished it about five minutes ago and nearly died. How could it end like that??? So relieved there’s a sequel!
I can’t bring myself to like Peeta! I feel bad for him, but he’s so weak….Katniss is so strong, I think she needs a man she can actually see as her equal, like Gale. Whatever happens, she will always see Peeta as someone she needs to protect.
I definitely saw the similarities the novel had to Battle Royale…the premise was similar, but the execution was very different… Battle Royale was far grittier and scarier, while the Hunger Games is a little more sensitive.
Just read this and LOVED it. Best book I’ve read in years. The ending was unsatisfying and unexpected, for me, because I had no idea it was going to be a series. But I would still give it an A or A+.
Thanks for the rec.
So as for this book, i think that it is one of the most amazing books in the history of all books and in the future- it will still be one of my favorites…i cannot wait for catching fire- i have so many theories of whats going to happen in it…and im so excited…
my main theory from which most others stem off of are that katniss will find out about the secret revolution, join forces and be the messenger between the districts…after a while the government will find out and chase her and as she is called the girl that was on fire the title is called catching fire…plus the symbol on the cover of the book is the symbol for the revolutionists…
its gonna be amazing!
My dad bought me this book for Christmas and I FELL IN LOVE! This book is absolutely amazing. I know it will be made into a movie that will be released in 2011. I am an actress and I REALLY want to audition. If anyone has information on the auditions and when or where they will be held, PLEASE let me know! Thanks.
Hey guys!!! Does anyone knows when the auditions are??? Someone on utube said on January 2010… I would really like to audition about Katniss so let me know!!!xxx
Hey everybody! This book was awesome! I read it in a day and a half. Absolutely loved it!!!!! And I love how Ms. Collins left the ending as a cliff hanger, I nearly tackled my mom saying that I HAD to get the second book. Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Although the book was quite good, there were a lot of cliche’s, and Diabolus Ex Machina’s; not that those are bad things when handled well, and they were handled well, but they could have been so much better.
And the ending felt extremely rushed, putting us through about as much plot as the first quarter in twenty or so pages.
I love this book, i’ve finished the second one and dying for more! I heard there’s a movie coming out…..I wish i could audition! i’m 14 next year but i can easily pass for a 16 year old! if there’s any updates about the movie i would them to hear them! AWESOME book!
very interesting article
@Amy: actually this book has alot of romance in it! the 2nd book even has a love triangle!!
God, the book is AWESOME. Honestly, this is the first book that I’ve read that made me not want to sleep at all just to read and think about it. Trust me I’ve read hundreds of books by now and this is the first time I’ve felt this way. It’s so freakin’ awesome!
Will Katniss die in the end? was the question that keeps popping out into my mind with every page turned
I’ve read an Indonesian copy of this book. It’s really awesome. Collins write in good prose, character development, and thriller story. Can’t wait to read the sequel to be translated to my languange.
@Jia: @April: no one likes you!!!1
i hate this book but i love it!!!!!! I guess it started very slow!!!!
I found the book quite good, also if i can’t understand the hype about it. Out of five stars I would give it 3. The whole story is interesting about the apocalyptic scenario and the conflict between the poor and oppressed districts and the powerfull Capitol. But for my taste the love story is quite overused. Without this, the next book could be interesting too but reading the end you get the impression that the next book is all about this love story.
Dear Suzanne Collins, why did you make Prim die I loved her sooooo much and you made an innosent girl die it is not fair and in the second book you made finnick die and cinna so not fair I loved all of them it is not fair why them?
@Tessera Mc Afee: It was in the third book but still why them
Hunger Games was about the best book I have ever read, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes or enjoys action, adventuremar suspence.
I completely agree Jia – The Hunger Games is a book in its own right, and too much is made by the comparison to Battle Royale. Admittedly, I’d still recommend Takami’s novel as a much more engrossing read, but The Hunger Games still has something to offer.
My review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Ok, so, my friends started reading the Hunger Games and told me I needed it. So, I got the books. I picked up the book and from the first page I couldn’t stop. I had it with me everywhere. Dinner. Bed. TV. I couldn’t stop. At the end of the day it took all my will to put the the book down to sleep. 3 days. The whole series and when I finished, I was numb until I realized, I wasn’t done. I think about it constantly. Little things make you think of it. I needed to read again. Had to. I read it everyday of my life and wish I could erase the memories of reading it so the impact would be fresh. I know it word for word, and it’s truly, the best book ever.
We had to deal with this review in our exam after dealing with the second part of the book. This is why I wrote down the internet adress given and came back. I definetly wanted to read the whole review and it was worth it. Not to mention the book, by the way.
I think the series is addictive, fun, but very predictable… I admit the themes you’ve highlighted are compelling, but something about the narrative irks me. And I think it’s because it could have been a much better book. Something epic. Instead, I just feel less guilty about reading it than when I read Twilight. For youth audiences, I think it’s a good introduction to dystopian fiction, but I think adults should know better before praising the series as the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve gone into a bit more detail (/ranting) at my blog, so feel free to come visit and disagree with me. ;)
The story of Hunger Games takes place in the post-apocalyptic Panem, which has been divided into 13 districts. The Capitol, which rules the 13 districts, had unfair policies. This made the people from the districts rebel. So, the 13th district was destroyed. The Hunger Games had 24 kids participate in the game, so two people from each district are chosen to represent their district. When Kat Everdeen finds out that her sister has been chosen to represent their district, Kat volunteers to take her place. Kat and Peeta are the represenatives for their district. The bad thing is, only 1 out of the 24 kids can survive. Later on during the game Peeta tells Kat that he likes her. Towards the end of the game, their is an announcement that now two people may survive at the end of the survival game. It turns out at the end that Peeta and Kat survive.
What I really liked about the novel was that their was a lot of detail during the game and their was a lot of action involved during the survival.
What I disliked about the novel was that they took to long talking about the actual game, and it got a little boring towards the end.
If I were to give this book a rating I would give it a 4 because it was interesting and a lot of action.
I really loved this book i just bought Catching Fire yesterday and i am already on chapter 3 man i wish she would write a 4th book
yo sup i luv that book sooooo much but hated the other to
I read the Hunger Games, and to be honest, it was a very empty experience. The characters are not very in-depth and believable. Yes, Katniss is strong and alone, but what heroine isn’t these days? The rampant killing off any character at any time can easily be compared to Harry Potter. And, yes, I do compare it to Battle Royale. If this is intentional or not is irrelevant: the book series was upsetting. The characters are stereotypical of their roles in the story. Katniss: Main Character who is set apart from the others who are cold-blooded killers. Peeta: the hopelessly in love sap who’s along for the ride. Gale: The best friend many consider to be the future spouse for the main character. They all play their predictable parts to perfection. Disappointing perfection. All in all, this book was mediocre at best, and with this passing fad getting a movie, I am truly disappointed in today’s American populace. Books five times better are ignored for whatever reason. And, to top it all off, not one person I know have given a good excuse to why Hunger Games is good. You want a good book, look in the god damn library!
@Lillie Snow: They actualy did bond together against what the Gamemakers said when they defied them by threatening the double suicide with the poisionious berries. i just finish the book last night and i still cant get that detail out of my head! I hope you understand more now
I read all three books they’er all sooooooooooooooooooooo good
Here’s another review:
i found the book very exiting, it kept me going for several times a week,
there were some things in the book i didn’t really understood tho.
anyways it was a wonderfull book!