Saturday, November 29, 2008

Review – “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capital is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death on live TV. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor to his or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capital wins; one more year of fearful compliance with its rule.

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 impoverished district 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 weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
After reading a few write-ups on The Hunger Games, I quickly decided that I needed to read and review this YA science fiction thriller. And I wasn’t disappointed. This is a stirring coming of age story for a young sixteen year old girl set against a bleak dystopian future. Kat lives in one of the poorest Districts in the Appalachians where the populace is exploited for the mining of coal by the oppressive central government. Food is scarce, and Kat is the sole breadwinner for the family. There is only her mother and 12 year old sister, her father having perished when she was 12 and her mother lapsing into depression. She illegally hunts game in the local forests to feed her family and sells the excess to richer folk in town who look the other way. The populace fears and resents the central government.

We are quickly immersed in her world just before the Games lottery is set to choose the annual participants. Kat ends up volunteering to be the female participant after her young sisters name is selected, despite the realization she has probably just signed her own death warrant. Everyone in the District is in attendance by law, and the crowds respond to Kat’s act of sacrifice in an unexpected manner –
“At first one, then another, then almost every member of the crowd touches the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and holds it out to me. It is an old and rarely used gesture of our district, occasionally seen at funerals. It means thanks, it means admiration, it means good-bye to someone you love.”
Kat and her male counterpart Peeta embark on a chaperoned journey to the central capital to be prepared for the Games. Kat is shocked and numbed by the display of wealth, and the unwitting arrogance of the people of the Central Districts who perceive the Games as merely entertainment. Kat has no expectation of winning and is resigned to her fate, but by nature she is not a quitter and mentally promises to acquit herself as best she can.

Kat and Peeta’s experience upon arriving in the Capital is surreal. They are lavished with food, attention and training. Treated like celebrities. Yet they are also unwilling victims, a pair of children along with 22 other youths being prepared for certain death. Only a single victor destined to survive. The Games are the bread and circuses for the masses and the ever present reminder that the Districts exist at the whim and pleasure of the Central District.

The heart of the novel is the Hunger Game itself which is depicted with all its brutality and horror laid bare, as the children are pitted against one another in a remote wilderness ‘arena’. It is the ultimate example of the reality show ‘Survivor’, pitted not only against each other but their surroundings and additional conditions and obstacles artificially introduced by the Hunger Game officials.

Death comes quickly to some, but the contest stretches from days into weeks as their numbers are slowly reduced. The Hunger Game is not just an excuse to depict violence for the thrill of the action. Everything is observed and filtered through Kat’s eyes. Kat wrestles with her morality, her fears, her mortality and her humanity. As there can be only one winner, she must contemplate the dilemma of killing Peeta, her District 12 compatriot, friend and perhaps more then a friend. How she faces meeting all of these challenges - deaths of friends and enemies, injuries and deprivation, makes for gripping and nail-biting reading.

There are many layers and nuances going on in this novel beyond the obvious. The ‘grooming’ team that prepares Kat and Peeta for the Games may have a hidden agenda in opposition with the central government, positioning the couple as favourites to win and as lovers, contrary to reality. Certain actions during the Games force the Hunger Games committee to alter the rules with interesting consequences. There is a sense that some form of resistance to the government is taking place but remains unspoken.

I would recommend The Hunger Games to all readers YA and otherwise. It portrays a true heroine and triumph of spirit that is raw and honest. The novel concludes with a clear indication that there will be further volumes exploring the world of The Hunger Games.

AUTHOR AND BOOK SHOWCASEOfficial Suzanne Collins Website

Read an excerpt of Chapter 1.

Scholastic, Inc.
Published: October 2008
ISBN #: 9780439023481
Format: Hard Cover
Pages: 374

Watch the book trailer . . .


  1. sounds a little like battle royale in the basic premise. I'm interested and will add this to my ever growing list.

  2. Yes I thought that as well, but there were also other influences it seemed as well, a little Lord of the Flies, Logans Run and The Tripods.

  3. Please note that I added a link to your review on my site: Random Wonder

  4. one of the best books ever i read it non stop finished in less than 2 hours (not my best time)

  5. Tasses thanks for the link.

    Anonymous I'd agree it was a real page-turner and impossible to put down.

  6. I LOVE THIS BOOK! I've said to a few people that if I wasn't married, I'd have to marry this book. :) I read the 400 page ARC in a less-than-24-hour time period (so quickly that it was never even on my "currently reading" shelf), which I've only done before with HP books, and I've just officially put the first book on my 2008 favorites shelf. I feel pretty safe in saying that if this isn't still my favorite book of the year when next January rolls around, that I'll eat a hat.

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