Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Who will like it best: Women and Men 13+
Words to describe it: Satisfying, Exhilarating, Action
Will I add it to my personal library? Yes
Will I read it again someday? Yes!
The Hunger Games has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for a very long time. This science-fiction book came out in September 2008 and has been a NY Times bestseller since, for the past 97 weeks. It is the first book in a three-part trilogy, the second book of which is called Catching Fire and has also been on the best seller list for a whopping 46 weeks. The third book, Mockingjay, will be released on August 24. Never heard of these books? It might be because they are on the Children’s Chapter Book best seller list which is for readers 12 years and up. I’ll admit that was one reason I was hesitant to read this book – I was afraid it would be totally dumb and boring. I learned my lesson about tween books the hard way with Twilight (grrr…believe me, I wanted to like them!). That combined with the fact that it’s science fiction made reading this novel pretty unappealing to me all the way around. But because of the hype, I felt I had to at least try and see what it was all about. And guess what…it was a really good book!
I’ve read that Lionsgate has purchased the rights to make this trilogy into a movie and the author, Suzanne Collins, will write the screenplay. The most I can find on that now is at IMDB (www.imdb.com) has this movie listed as ‘in development’. If it does make it to the big screen I’m anxious to see how this is done – I think this book would make a great movie. What I hope doesn’t happen is that it comes out looking like a made-for-tv-movie on the SciFi network, which will completely undermine the work of art the book is.
This story takes place in a post-war North America called Panem. The land has been reorganized into 12 districts and a Capitol. The members of the Capitol rule over the districts and to remind them of this, every year they force each district to send 1 girl and 1 boy to compete to the death against each other in what is called the ‘Hunger Games.’ These games are televised and are required to be watched by everyone across Panem. Katness Everdeen is the girl sent to represent District 12. She is 16, but is tough and self-sufficient and has been taking care of her mother and little sister since her father died. The book follows her through her experience competing in the Games. I won’t tell you how it ends explicitly, but you can probably guess since it is the first of three books. Don’t worry – knowing that doesn’t ruin the reading experience at all.
Here’s an excerpt – I like how much this short paragraph tells you about the world of Panem.
The train finally begins to slow and suddenly bright light floods the compartment. We can’t help it. Both Peeta and I run to the window to see what we’ve only see on television, the Capitol, the ruling city of Panem. The cameras haven’t lied about its grandeur. If anything, they have not quite captured the magnificence of the glistening buildings in a rainbow of hues that tower into the air, the shiny cars that roll down the wide paved streets, the oddly dressed people with bizarre hair and painted faces who have never missed a meal. All the colors seem artificial, the pinks too deep, the greens too bright, the yellows painful to the eyes, like the flat round disks of hard candy we can never afford to by at the tiny sweet shop in District 12.
As I mentioned, I was concerned with the teen-ness of this novel but in the end I actually liked that it was more ‘PG’ than not. The relationships lacked any adult point of view as I expected, but that was okay because the relationships weren’t the only focus. And it was definitely a less complex overall but I was fine with that too because it made it easy for me to adjust to the science-fiction aspect. And honestly, the sci-fi wasn’t overwhelming at all. You do have to adjust to a society beyond what we know, but it’s pretty simplistic actually and not distracting when following the story. This book has a (much less detailed and headache-causing) George Orwell1984-vibe with the big brother and government control themes. I also really liked Katness. I believed in her and her abilities. This made me excited to watch her compete and see what ultimately happened to her. Lastly, this book is extremely well paced. It moves quickly which enables the reader to easily keep up interest through to the end.
The one question that kept coming back to me as I was reading this book was, “How did North America get like this?” There is no year given, but it says that Panem “rose out of the ashes” and this is the 74th year of the Hunger Games, so I can only imagine how far into the future this book is set. What was at work and for how long to leave the entire continent reconfigured? Perhaps some of that will be revealed in the next 2 books.
I had a couple of minor issues with the way this novel ended. First, I cannot believe this situation is coming up for the first time in seventy-four years of the Hunger Games. It seems like 2 other contestants could have worked out what Katness did at some point before. Secondly, I don’t understand why the Capitol is so angry about it.
I would recommend this book for sure and for many categories of readers: Male and female readers both young and old. I don’t recommend it to those who are heavily into adult science-fiction – I suspect that they would find it a little too ‘light’ compared to what they are used to. The story is unique, the characters distinctive and likeable. It’s well paced, not too heavy on the science-fiction but enough so to transport you to a somewhat unfathomable but believable society.