Book Review: ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins

With all the hype surrounding the upcoming Hunger Games film; it was time to crack open the first book of the series and have a gander. To say that I had high expectations going into this book was certainly true, but casting that aside, and the fact that I avoided plot summaries (which I hope not to provide here) and spoilers, I wanted to go into this fresh, with no outward stimuli to influence my opinion. However, in my haste I recall an episode of the Library Police Podcast, hosted by Dietrich Stogner and Josh Mauthe where they dished about this series. Had I listened? Yes, but in all honesty, I could not recall a single word uttered on the episode (And If you’ve read the books and want to hear a great discussion about it, I highly recommend you check out the episode, hell The Library Police is one of the best podcasts out there, check it out!). Feigning all other mental inventories of spoiling gremlins, I proceeded.

From the beginning of the book, we are introduced to the culture of Panem and it’s overpowering government that rules with totality. The way it unfolds, through the first person narration of the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is unique, and often feels like it’s fresh, not unexplored but just inexperienced. And really, Katniss is inexperienced in playing the Hunger Games, seeing as how you only play it once, and more often than not you die doing it. Katniss has the misfortune of being from District 12, which focuses on mining coal, and also hasn’t won a Hunger Games in approximately 24years. That winner, Haymitch Abernathy, the mentor of Katniss and her fellow male tribute Peeta Mellark, is the towns most infamous citizen, aside from it’s mayor, but is also the towns best drunk.

One of this book’s strongest factors is the mythology it has built into itself. While it’s not quite as detailed as say Harry Potter (it’s also not as long a series either), it still puts on a clinic as to how to build a great world. Throughout the book, Katniss gives us a great explanation of how Panem is structured, why it’s structured that way, the significance of the Hunger Games, all the little details before, during, and after the Games, and what makes certain districts distinct.

More stunning is this book’s influences, and while it’s hard to pin down exactly what this book is similar to, Battle Royale comes closest, but even that film deviates in ways from this sprawling epic. At the very beginning of the book, one can feel a touch of Shirley Jackson’s short masterpiece “The Lottery.” The Games recall to mind a story I remember reading in high school called “The Worlds Most Dangerous Game”; in which the hunt for human flesh replaces the hunt for big game in the safari’s of Africa. I also feel like there is a strong element of the reality TV show Survivor in this book. A more dangerous version of it for sure, but that influence comes through, especially with the way the games are televised. This final reference may seem out of place to some, but I feel it must be mentioned. There are elements of a beauty pageant present in this novel; there is an interview that all tributes must do, along with a talent portion displayed to the gamemakers, and image is definitely how you win crowds and sponsors over in this book.

Only being one book into this trilogy, I’m starving for more. Particularly, in the last few chapters, Collins does a great job building tension in such a way, not knowing what will come next. After all, the 74th annual games were very controversial, especially the outcome. These results will lead to an unpredictability going into the next two books, and from my perspective will hopefully live up to this strong first book.

Book Rating: star_rating(8)

Stray Observations

There are a couple of things I didn’t like in this book: There are a few moments late in the book where Katniss ponders on winning the games and being rich, she distinctly says, long after she lost hearing in one of her ears that “I’ll pay someone to hear for me.” The attitude doesn’t really fit her character and kind of had me scratching my head a couple of times.

Secondly, I wish we knew a little bit more about each district, even if it’s just a tiny explanation.

Wish there was a map of Panem.

I like that the protagonist is a strong woman, and the only man she has in her life is a bit inadequate.

Rue Dying = Me Crying

There is this great undercurrent in the Games, whereas, yes it is entertainment, but is barbaric in nature. Panem is obviously a bit more advanced than the country we live in now, and they choose to have it’s competitors play these games in a barbaric manner, with primitive weapons, surviving in the wilderness (arena).

The themes are very relatable to now; totalitarianism, poverty, starvation, technology, war.

The romance (if you want to call it that) is so well done here; in other words, take notes Meyer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s