Monday, June 4, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins * May Contain Spoilers*

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Published: October 31st, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Pages:  374
How I received this book: Got it as a gift
Read: May 23-25
My Rating: 5 stars
In  a Few Words: Powerful, poignant, brutal

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

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 steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.(less)

Melissa's Musings:

I realize that there are already thousands of reviews on The Hunger games out there in the blogosphere, but I've finally gotten around to reading it. (I jump on the bandwagon of books that get really popular really late in the game.) So, I figured I'd add my two cents as well.

I was immediately hooked and glued to the story right down to the last page. Not just the first line, but the whole first paragraph, speaks volumes. I immediately wanted to know more.  There were very few things that I didn't like about this novel. While not perfect, this is an excellent read. I can't wait to get started on reading the rest of the series.

The Hunger Games is so immensely popular that I don't think there's anything I can say about it that hasn't already been said. Regardless, I'll still tell you all what I thought of it.

Collins does an extremely good job of hooking the reader in and keeping them engaged throughout the story. The pacing is perfect. I didn't find any spots that were too slow, and it also wasn't so fast that you'd get overwhelmed. Just enough to keep you turning pages and not wanting to put it down.

One of the best parts of this book is the imagery. I'm a complete stickler for details in novels, particularly the use of color as I've mentioned in some of my previous reviews. Collins' descriptions of Katniss in her opening  ceremonies outfits really stayed with me. The images of her and Peeta being on fire in their matching outfits  struck a chord in my mind, I could see it as I read.

There's also really great contrast between the stark, bleak environment of the districts and the rich, luxury of the Capitol.  In the districts you can just see that Katniss and the others don't have the luxury of a hot bath and yet in the Capitol Katniss has a shower with 100 different bubble bath types/scents at her fingertips.

I think Collins might have used some of these smaller details to make the brutality of the Games themselves more potent. At least that's what it did for me. As a reader it took me to a place in my mind where I thought about how there's a lot I take for granted. While I may not have a shower with 100 different kinds of bubble bath I do have the luxury of some basics that many other people in the world have never had, so it did cause me to think twice and be more grateful for what I do have.

One of the more scary descriptions that stuck with me both in terms of imagery and in terms of an interesting plot twist is the description of the mutts that are attacking Cato, Katniss and Peeta on the cornucopia. I won't explain who they are so I don't ruin it for anyone who hasn't read it, but just the idea of wolf like beasts with 4 inch claws chasing after someone  is creepy enough to give you the shivers. It certainly threw me for a loop when I read it.

The relationships in this book are intricate, even the brief ones. Even though the conditions are mostly brutal, there is a real opportunity for relationships to form. Some of them are underdeveloped but still powerful. Some are formed out of necessity.

Katniss and Gale's relationship feels to me  like it's still forming. I think they're floundering around with their feelings for one another. Over the course of the Games it seems like Katniss comes to realize that she has feelings for Gale because she is so concerned about getting home to him. I have to say I felt cheated when Gale's thoughts get cut off as he is saying his goodbye to Katniss before she leaves for the Capitol. Another way to keep us sucked in.

Katniss and Peeta's relationship at first is out of requirement, as a strategy for the games. It really works in their favor too. They become the favorites of the Games and the rule change that their relationship results in (and the subsequent twists and turns with the ending of the games because of that rule change) really drive the plot forward. The sad thing is, Peeta's feelings for Kat are real, and she's just playing along. I really felt for Peeta. Especially with his history with Kat and the things he's done for her. It doesn't seem like much but in the scheme of things it's a lot, and it's clear that he cares for her a great deal.

The one thing I don't like, is that I know, or at least I think I know where one set of relationships is heading. I have a feeling that there will be some sort of love triangle situation between Kat, Gale and Peeta in the next two books. Call me bitter, or cynical if you want, but love triangles just seem so cliche to me right now. I think that's just a sign that I've been reading too many stories with love triangles in them.

*****SPOILER ALERT******

The relationship that I thought was the most powerful, however brief, was the one between Katniss and Rue.    Rue and Katniss really look out for each other, regardless of the fact that they're supposed to be fighting against each other for their lives. Kat feels strongly for Rue, she becomes a surrogate little sister. You can tell how much she cares for Rue in the scenes immediately before and  after Ru"e's death.  Rue asks Katniss to sing for her, and Katniss doesn't want to but then she thinks,
...But if this is Prim's, I mean Rue's last request, I have to at least try."

Katniss has transposed her sister, the very person she sought to protect in taking her place as a tribute in the Games with Rue. In this scene, they are one in the same, and the love that Kat feels for Rue is obvious in the song as well as her thought to cover Rue in flowers. I particularly enjoyed this scene for it's poignancy both in the relationship between Kat and Rue and also for the slight against Capitol in that seemingly innocent yet blatantly defiant acts.


As powerful and moving as that scene is, it brings up another point which is one of the other negatives of this book and that is the horrible prospect of children killing each other. Story or not, the whole prospect of this is brutal and harsh. It's shocking, which is a good way to draw readers in, I 'll give it that. I just wish that there were more explanation of the background of why Panem has to be this way. I wish there were more reflection from the characters as to the brutality of it, even though somewhere in my head I know that numbness to it is how they have to be to survive it.

It's this element of the story that kept me from getting the book for my nephew as a birthday present. He really wants to read it, but I just didn't feel comfortable giving him a book where the majority of the plot revolves around kids killing one another. I just wasn't sure if at 10 years old he should really be reading that kind of a story, or if he would fully understand the implications of it.

I'm hoping that in the next books there will be more explanation for the reasoning behind the Games and how Panem came to be the way that it is.

One of the fun little details that I truly liked, just because I tend to pay attention to these sorts of things were the variety in the characters names. Katniss especially, although I hope that many people don't start naming their daughters Katniss as a result of the popularity of The Hunger Games. (I'm sure there have been some already)

I also really hope that Cinna plays a part in the next book because I really enjoyed his character and his connection with Katniss as well.

Although there were a few elements that I didn't care for in this novel I would recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent dystopian story.


Anonymous said...

You're a step ahead of me, I still haven't read this series, although I know how the storyline goes (it's pretty hard to be a book blogger and NOT know at least the gist of it by now!). Because they're so popular, they're always out at the library, and I could never decide if I wanted to buy them, when there were so many other books I knew I would love. But I really, really liked this review, and how you noted the use of colour. :-)

Melissa said...


It's a really great story. I think they're worth buying, they're something I would read more than once. You're definitely right that it's hard not to at least get the gist of the stories with all of the reviews around the blogosphere. I'm really glad that you enjoyed my review :)

Ashna Banga said...

I love The Hunger Games! Like you, I LOVE books that have the ability to create distinct images and those books always win in my list of favorite reads! I saw the movie after reading the book and was surprised to see so many similarities in the way I had imagined it and how it was in the movie!

And yes, the only thing I hated was the children killing children thing. It was brutal, but also important to the story and it's fiction, so I guess that's alright. Though, even I don't think your little nephew should get to read those.

I loved Katniss's relationship with Rue and her singing the song for her was my favorite moment in this book! I also love the way she's protective of Prim. :)

Great review Melissa. All the elements of an awesome and useful review! :)

Melissa said...

Thanks Ashna, I'm really glad you enjoyed my review!

It seems like you and I are pretty much on the same page about this one.

I don't know if I'll end up seeing the movie or not. Do you think it's worth it to see the movie in its' own right or will I just come away saying the book was way better?