Friday, December 12, 2008

Book Review: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

TWO REVIEWS! The first is by Miss Vicki, the Children's Librarian at the Cape May County Library. Up after that is a review from one of our local teens, Beth.


The Hunger Games Review by Miss Vicki
The Hunger Games is an intense work of teen survival fiction. Reading this book, I could instantly recognize the many sources that seem to have inspired this book: Survivor, various Greek Myths (particularly Theseus in the Labyrinth), Roman Gladiator games, and Battle Royale for those reading this over 17.

Katniss is a 16 year old girl living in the not so distant future, when the United States has been dismantled due to natural and manmade disasters and turned into a totalitarian* state called Panem. At the center of Panem is the Capitol, which 12 surrounding Districts. In an exercise to show their power over the 12 Districts, the Capitol requires one boy and one girl from every District to fight in the Hunger Games every year. This is a fight to the death, and only one person can be the winner. Katniss is to fight this year...

This book is brutal. The teens do die, some in horrible ways. Suzanne Collins doesn't mull on gory details, thankfully, but each death has an emotional resonance that really reflects the WRONGNESS of the situation. After all, not only are children and teens forced to fight each other, they are doing so live on television, while the whole country watches. It's entertainment to those not participating. This is reality tv of the future.

I enjoyed reading this book. It has many themes that can be discussed for hours, making it ideal for book clubs and schools, as well as individual reading. Katniss is a fully developed main character, and I enjoyed her perspective on the events that occurred within the book. She is not without flaws, but she is a very strong and resourceful person. I found myself admiring her survival intelligence. The world of Panem is very well describe and many images still haunt me. However, I did not know ahead of time that The Hunger Games is part of a planned trilogy, so I was really annoyed by the "To be continued" at the end of the book. There are a few loose ends and honestly, I have no idea where the second book is going to take me. I enjoyed The Hunger Games so much, though, that I'll definitely tune in for Part Two.

I was excited to read this book based on advance reviews. I wasn't disappointed one smidging bit. I devoured this book in 4 hours, then immediately convinced my 14 year old sister to start reading it. She read 50 pages in the time it took for me to have a cup of tea.

I recommend this for teens that enjoy books like The Giver by Lois Lowry, or any of the works I've mentioned above. It will also be appreciated by those who question the current Reality TV trend, or by those who enjoy survival fiction, like the Island series by Gordon Korman.

*totalitarian state-n. A form of government that controls many aspects of its peoples' lives, including what they should say, think and do. Freedom of speech doesn't exist in these governments.

**dystopian-adj. highlighting human misery. Dystopian books talk about poverty, oppression, and violence usually caused by a totalitatian state.

The Hunger Games Review by Beth S.
Okay, I'll admit it- the only reason I chose to read (or, rather, insisted the library get for me) the book 'The Hunger Games', by Suzanne Collins, was because Stephenie Meyer, best-selling author of the 'Twilight' series, highly recommended it. And I must say, although I read it in almost one shot, I wasn't quite as highly impressed as my favorite author had been. 'The Hunger Games' is a futuristic, somewhat sci-fi story.

It takes place in Panem, which is the country that has replaced the North American countries. Every year, the government of Panem puts on the show known as the Hunger Games, which can be compared to a demented form of the reality show 'Survivor'. 24 teens, between the ages of 12 and 18, are placed in the wilderness with only their own means of survival. The catch? Only one will be permitted to leave the arena. The rest must kill each other. The Games are supposedly put on to remind the people of Panem that the government has complete control over them, and can slaughter their children for no reason other than entertainment. I suspected an alterior motive, until I realized that the author would give none.

The main character, Katniss, was not chosen for the Hunger Games; her little sister, Prim, was. However, Katniss refused to see her little sister die in the Games, and volunteered in her place. Her opponent from her district is Peeta, a boy who once helped her out when she was hopeless and starving. In fact, the Games don't seem to be aptly named, since Katniss eats better during her time in the arena than she did when she was a child. Food even falls from the sky, if she's in bad need of it, if her sponsers are willing to send her some. Most of the contestents are used to surviving on very little food, since the government doesn't do much for the care of the poorer districts.The book isn't very eloquent. I could pick on sentence structure, but that doesn't honestly bother me too much. It's written more like a continuous train of thought than like a novel, which makes it simple to read, and somewhat fast-paced.

One of the main reasons this book disappointed me was because the characters weren't very developed. Several characters seemed to have a huge part in several chapters, or their mention seemed to be building up to a major part in the climax, only to have them die off shortly before the time when they could have had any excitement in the story. Also, the entire Games seem somewhat shallow, since beforehand a huge focus is on what the contestents in the Games will be wearing. Their stylists take a main part in the story, and while I suppose it's important to make a good impression on potential sponsers (so they might rian food on you later in the Game, when you need it), I would personally prefer my prep time learning the skills of my opponents, to see who will be a major threat, or developing a strategy for myself. The most disappointing part of the story was the end (although I'll try not to give too much away here, so it's not a spoiler). I honestly expected the main character to come up with some way so save most of the contestents-at least the ones that still had a heart. Some way to symbolicly overthrow the government. While the end does have a bit of a twist, the only thing done to show up the government is spur-of-the-moment, with no other choice really. (Any twists in the story are a bit anti-climactic- not nearly enough suspense for a survival story.)

Later, the victor of the Games is told he or she is still in danger, although none seems to rise. A possible love story crashes, and the story has very little resolution. The victor's reunion with family and friends isn't shown, obligations aren't paid off, there's no hint as to what the rest of their life will be like. No, the story ends almost in the middle of a scene, with a bold line proclaiming 'END OF BOOK 1.' I'm wondering what the heck they'll be able to put in book 2- the Games are finshed with, the only thing left is the resolution. While I'm curious as to what will be in it, I'm not exactly excited at the prospect of the second book (though I probably will insist on having it, again, and again finish it as quickly as the first.)

Thank you Beth and Vicki!


keri mikulski :) said...

I've heard amazing buzz about THE HUNGER GAMES. Thanks for the reviews. :)

Justin The Teen Librarian said...

I too have heard great things about the book. I guess Stephenie Meyer gave it like 76 thumbs up as well so I think that is why it is quite popular...