Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins." (from The Hunger Games, page 18)

I've heard so much about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I was excited when it was chosen by the monthly book club Serena just started. (So far, only our husbands and a co-worker are joining us, but whatever gets the boys reading works for me!) I have high expectations when I read so many positive reviews of a book, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed by this one.

"Survivor on steroids" is what Serena called the book when we talked about it at lunch recently, and I agree with that assessment. The Hunger Games is a dystopian young adult novel about North America after wars and disasters. What's left is Panem, divided into 12 districts and ruled by the Capitol. There was a 13th district, but it was annihilated when the districts rose up against the government, and as a punishment and a reminder of the Capitol's power, the 12 remaining districts must participate each year in the Hunger Games. All children between the ages of 12 and 18 are entered (1 entry at age 12, 2 at 13, etc.), and given that some of the districts are poor and hungry, children can obtain a year's worth of grain and oil for one person for an extra entry -- and they can tack on more than one of these extra entries.

By the time the protagonist of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, is 16, she has a lot of entries, as does her best friend and hunting partner Gale. Since the death of her father in the coal mines, Katniss has become the head of the household and engages in illegal activities to provide herself, her 12-year-old sister Prim, and their mother with enough food to survive. The book begins with the reaping, when the contestants for the next Hunger Games are chosen. Although Prim is entered only once, her name is chosen, and out of love for her sister and a fierce desire to protect her at all costs, Katniss chooses to take her place. Her fellow tribute is Peeta, the baker's son, who provided her with a few burned loaves at a time when she and her family were close to starving to death. The book follows Katniss and Peeta on their trip to the Capitol to prepare for the Hunger Games and at the games themselves.

Collins lets Katniss tell her story in the first person and in the present tense, which I think was a great choice for this book. I felt like I was part of the story, running alongside Katniss in the woods and feeling her anxiety, pain, and fear. Katniss knows her chances of survival are not great. Sure, she can hunt and she's awesome with a bow and arrow, but many of the tributes from the other districts are bigger, stronger, well fed, and better trained. Collins does a great job building suspense with regard to the games and creating tension between Katniss and Peeta; they're from the same district, so they want to feel like they have one another for support, but only one tribute out of 24 can be the victor.

The first person point of view can be limiting, but I feel Collins did a good job of showing the different sides of the other characters, particularly Peeta and Haymitch, District 12's only Hunger Games winner and the tributes' mentor throughout the games. Collins is effective in showing the evils of the Panem government and the inequalities among the districts, but I longed for more details about how Panem came to be and who in fact is running the government. (That's my sociology degree talking!) However, The Hunger Games is the first in a series, and maybe more of those details will be revealed later on.

The Hunger Games reads fast for a 374-page book, and while it's not for the faint of heart, I highly recommend it if you like dystopian novels with lots of action. I don't know how I'm going to wait for Catching Fire to be released in September. Not patiently, that's for sure.

Disclosure:  I borrowed The Hunger Games from the library.

© 2009, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.


Stephanie said...

Survivor on steriods? That should be a blurb on the back of the book - very clever!!

And I'm so impressed that you two have your husbands in on the book club!!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I loved this book and I am not a fan of dystopian fiction. I have Catching Fire, lol, but I haven't started reading it yet because I don't want to be all anxious for the last book which won't be out for another year.

Missy B. said...

I have heard about this book so much in the last couple of weeks. I was undecided as to whether or not to read it - due to your outstanding review, I am adding it to my ever-growing-wish list!

Happy reading!

bermudaonion said...

I bought this at the airport on the way home from BEA because I scored a copy of Catching Fire there. I haven't had a chance to start it yet, though.

Unknown said...

believe it or not, I actually did not love this book at all. I liked it, it was okay but I think the author did a horrible job with the ending, obviously wanting the readers to buy part two to find out what happens and I hate that. I will not be reading part two because of the ending (even though the whole book was all right and read pretty quickly).

Sandy Nawrot said...

The kids and I listened to this book on audio, and loved it. It was an edgy story for tweens, but it didn't bother them at all, in fact they wanted to sit in the car and just listen. We are all worked up into a lather over the second in the series, and are green with envy that Natasha Maw has already gotten her hands on the copy! My kids implored me to "use my blogging connections" to get one, but I think they overestimate my abilities!

Iliana said...

I've only seen positive reviews for this book. Sounds like a great read - I can't wait to get to it!

Melissa O. said...

Great review!! I loved this book, too, and am anxiously awaiting the release of Catching Fire :-)

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Has your group met to discuss the book yet? Were your husbands' impressions along the same lines?

I know CATCHING FIRE was a hot item at BEA. I don't know that I'll read HUNGER GAMES, but those who enjoy the genre rave about it!

Literary Feline said...

I've been wanting to read this one. I am so glad you enjoyed it, Anna.

Book Escape said...

This one does sound suspenseful, just from your review. I think I'll tell my husband about this one. Maybe he can join your book club :>

The Reading Momster said...

I just read a review of the same book at Bethany's :)

Sounds really good... but I am not sure if I can take so much action ;) though I can definitely try :)

Serena said...

I have not started the book, but I have been listening to the audio. Hubby has started reading this, but he's a slow reader...though he is on chap. 4. He likes it so far.

thanks for the review

Anna said...

Stephanie: We'll see how long the book club lasts. They have short attention spans. LOL

Nicole: Yeah, it'll be hard to wait another year, but I'm still going to breeze through the book when I get my hands on it.

Missy: Great! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Bermudaonion: Lucky you! I'm looking forward to your thoughts on both of the books.

Lilly: I didn't mind the end. I really wanted to know what happens, but it's all part of building suspense. I wish the whole story could be in one book, but it makes sense from a marketing perspective I suppose. ;)

Sandy: I think The Girl would love this book, but I'm waiting til she's a bit older to share it with her.

Iliana: I hope you enjoy it, too!

Melissa: I see we're in the same boat. ;)

Dawn: Our husbands are still at the beginning of the book. Mine was shocked I finished it in just a few days. The book club meets next month.

Literary Feline: Hope you get a chance to read it soon.

Book Escape: The more, the merrier!! :)

Veens: I haven't read Bethany's review yet. I should pop over there soon. If you give it a try, let me know what you think.

Serena: I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Ooh--book club book! Maybe I'll choose this one for ours. I think it's great that your husbands are joining you. I definitely don't think I could get my husband to do a book club. :P

Anyway, glad you liked the book--I've got to get my hands on it!

Anonymous said...

Okay. I think I'm going to have to break down and buy this one.

Darlene said...

Survivor on steroids-that's just great! lol. I've seen this around but I'm not sure it's the read for me. However it's awesome that you two have gotten your hubbies reading.

Anna said...

Trish: We're not sure how long they'll last in the book club, but we'll enjoy it while we can.

Carol: I hope you like it as much as I did. Let me know what you think.

Dar: Believe me, I was shocked when my hubby said, "why not?" LOL