mark monday's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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's review
Dec 04, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: teenworld, super-private-journal, after-the-fall

i just woke up from a disturbing little nightmare that strangely involved The Hunger Games. in the dream, i pull Hunger Games off of the shelf and out slips a paper thin cell phone. it is my sister's phone. she has recently come up from los angeles to visit and i know she's returned home while i was at work; clearly she's forgotten her phone. i'm amused, knowing how forgetful she can be, realizing that i'll now have a phone that i can use (my cell phone just died in real life - and in my dream too), and immediately call her husband on her cell to tell him that Sheila forgot her phone. before i can say anything, he says in a small voice, "Where's Sheila? I've been calling her and you for hours. The boys are scared". in the background, i hear the tv talking about murders. and then about plane crashes. and then about disappearances. i try to say something to him but my voice isn't working; i start to yell but nothing comes out. i know something has happened to her and i know that i have somehow failed her. my mind bends at the awful possibilities and i wake up, sweating.

so i took down Hunger Games and suddenly flashed back to that short, dreadful scene of Katniss hearing her sister's name called during the reaping. i knew it was coming; hell, it says so right on the back cover. nevertheless, it is a scene that is in some ways a moment out of time for me. short, basic, horrifying, primal...the idea of Prim being chosen, being slain, is not even a possibility on Katniss' mind. her mind doesn't accept the idea of her sister in danger, and so without thinking, she volunteers to take her place. i remember reading that scene, and that little shiver it gave me. Katniss acts in the way that all people who love those in their care would act: immediately and unthinkingly putting themselves in harm's way to protect their loved ones. it is an automatic, human reaction. it doesn't take an expert on the human condition to understand that. but it does take an excellent writer to convey such a basic human response so simply and yet so meaningfully. Katniss' action defines her completely, as it defines all people who would seek to protect others. throughout the novel, she does not veer from this course.

i was in alaska recently, camping. there was a person with us during this trip who was extremely worried abouts bears and bear attacks; and so conversation took place to reassure her, to keep things light. we talked about bears off and on throughout the day and then around the campfire. i've never been the sort to be paranoid about bears, but man when i went to sleep, that's all i could think about. and then twigs started cracking, followed by the sound of an animal snuffling and rustling about, right next to me; it happened throughout the night; i stayed awake until dawn. the next day i noticed some dry animal shit and discovered that i had placed my tent only a couple inches away from some little creature's burrow, one that clearly had much work to accomplish during the evening hours. not so frightening to think about now, sorta cute actually. but gosh, it is something else to be locked in fear for so many hours straight. my mind went through various stages, finally settling on a (now hilarious) acceptance that i would be attacked. i clutched my knife and waited, exhausted but somehow at peace that i could run, i could fight, i could live, i could die, but strangely content knowing that what will happen, will ridiculous as this particular situation turned out to be, i have had that same feeling during other situations where i felt Okay, well this is it, i suppose i'm going to die. this is a basic human response. you can only quiver in fear for so long until you weary, you become resolved to accept things.

on the plane ride back, i noticed a kid reading The Hunger Games and remembered my own enjoyment, and knew how gripping and intense the experience could possibly be for him. he certainly clutched the book as if his life depended on it, as if the rest of the world didn't exist. and then i also remembered those scenes in the arena, that acceptance that Katniss had: she may die, she may not die, but what will happen, will happen. i remember reading her thoughts about her future in the arena, her probable death, and realizing her thoughts felt right. The Hunger Games manages to get across a very complex yet also very basic human response, in a way that is direct, crystal clear, and thoroughly realistic in its detailing of a person's actual mental and emotional reactions.

so why do i ramble on about things in my life that have barely anything to do with Hunger Games, that only tangentially reminded me of this novel? well, i suppose to make a point about the book. if you are the kind of person who became lost in The Hunger Games, you know that it stays with you, it affects you in an emotional comes back. but i'm also rambling to make a point about all quality Young Adult Fiction. this genre is well-loved, but it also takes its critical knocks as well. folks talk about the simplistic writing, the boiled-down tropes, the lack of complexity, the earnestness, and the basic, almost black & white palate of emotions and principles on display. but to me, these are the virtues of the genre. if done well, these are the reasons why these books connect with their readers in a way that feels right, that feels honest. no matter whether the setting is a wizard's school or an alternate england or a post-apocalyptic north america.

i think of YA Fiction as our own modern version of fables and mythic adventures, stories that have as their purpose the telling of straightforward morality tales, tales of right and wrong and fighting back and loving others and being an individual and finding community. the best ones are transparent in their goals and do not clutter their prose with stylization, complicated narratives, writerly game-playing, ambiguous theme-building, and the like. the best ones tell a tale that resonates with readers at a deep and elemental level - and so the reader responds in kind. i suppose this is why many people can become obsessed with this genre's bestsellers - they speak to the reader in the most direct way imaginable. they may come with a context that is relevant to today's world (as does Hunger Games), but the best ones are also timeless (as is Hunger Games). the best of this genre warmly illustrates the strength of the human spirit yet can also be surprisingly unsentimental; often swiftly-paced and action-packed yet carefully, lovingly detailed when examining the things that matter to its protagonists; often despairing and full of a palpable sense of resentment and anger, yet open to the inevitable change and growth that can happen and that make us more connected to the world around us and to whom we truly are, at the heart of us.

The Hunger Games' place within all of this is obvious: it is a modern classic of the genre. and as with all classics, it is relevant and suitable for all ages. it is the kind of novel that grows in the memory.
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02/23 marked as: read

Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-47 of 47) </span> <span class="smallText">(47 new)</span>

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message 1: by Ian (new)

Ian Vinogradus I would be worried if I found out that my sister had been reading my books.

mark monday my sister doesn't just read my books, she actually steals them from me. and cds. at least my nephews actually ask first!

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Vinogradus Lucky I don't have a sister.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

love it, thanks mark!

Anthony Chavez Wow, one of the best reviews I have read on this book.

mark monday thank you Emily and Anthony!

message 7: by mark (last edited Aug 24, 2011 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday Ian wrote: " I would be worried if I found out that my sister had been reading my books.

Lucky I don't have a sister."

so, say you DID have a sister...what specific books would you be afraid of your sister reading??

message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Vinogradus If I had a sister, her favourite band would be the Velvet Underground.
So I'd be afraid that she would steal my collection of VU books.
More importantly, I'd be terrified that she would steal my most prized possession, a CD of the 1993 reunion tour signed by all four band members in that fleeting moment when they were all alive and talking to each other again.

Lori Wow what a stellar review! I think the intense personal experience you've shared with the this book makes it so much more alive - creepy dream! It's invaded your dreams! GAHHH!

One of these days, I'll read it. Ah I've just decided - this Xmas when I have the house to my own, lovely.

I applaud your comparison of YA today with myth, fables and folktales. Yeah. Why didn't I think of that!

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Word. Nice review!

message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Lori and Ceridwen. much appreciated.

Lori, looking forward to review post-Xmas!

Kwesi 章英狮 I'm glad you love the book! This was one of my best books last year before I ended up reading Divergent. Have fun!

Rykel I'm going to flag your post for- excessive awesomeness!!!!xD

message 14: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday hey thanks Rykel!

Kaitlyn You could write a book about it! HA

message 16: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark truly excellent review

message 17: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Mark!

message 18: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara A similar thing happened to me on a camping trip (with me it turned out to be deer making scrapes). I fell asleep with my knife in my hand.

message 19: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday funny to think about the next day!

Nilesh Kashyap Your review is honest and success in proving this book is good but book itself failed for me.

message 21: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Nilesh! yeah i know this book is not for everyone - especially after reading many of my GR friends' reviews. still, i am always surprised to read a bad review. sometimes i wonder if much of the antipathy is due to backlash from all of the constant publicity, marketing, and adulation from fans. and of course the first-person narrator also rubs a lot of people the wrong way (like yourself).

message 22: by Nilesh (last edited Sep 04, 2012 02:02AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nilesh Kashyap Those who found out about this book through GR would have expected too much from this book, so was case with me and I was even confused during reading that why am I not enjoying this book. Since reading Richard's review I am convinced why this book was a hit among YA-readers. I'm a big fan of first person narration and I also know it is one tough job, but this just didn't went down good with this book for me. Currently I'm reading Ghostwritten, which has wonderful first person narration.

message 23: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday i will have to check that one out.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

This is probably the first novel I disagree with you on XD

message 25: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday then i think you may appreciate Nilesh's review - click on his 'rated 2 stars' above. i don't agree with him, but it is a very interesting review.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

mark wrote: "then i think you may appreciate Nilesh's review - click on his 'rated 2 stars' above. i don't agree with him, but it is a very interesting review."

Yeah I should check it out. I like to see some reviews of people who aren't completely one sided (not saying your's is though!!!)

message 27: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday oh, i would say that mine is pretty one-sided! when i really like or love a book, i rarely ever talk about its flaws. and i really liked this one.

message 28: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday also, and this is totally random, but i hate how narrow the review boxes have become with this recent goodreads upgrade. it looks awkward!

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

mark wrote: "also, and this is totally random, but i hate how narrow the review boxes have become with this recent goodreads upgrade. it looks awkward!"

Yeah, it makes the longer paragraphs look weird.

message 30: by Agnieszka (new)

Agnieszka One of the positive side of that today’s mess is that I can read some old reviews. And ,sorry Mark , I have to like it. So let it float again.

message 31: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday I was just saying on another one of my bug-inflicted reviews that I wish the bug had chosen reviews that were a less shamelessly personal & emotional. this is of my reviews that I'm glad I wrote but am rather too embarrassed to read again. eek.

message 32: by Agnieszka (last edited Dec 04, 2013 11:36AM) (new)

Agnieszka I like personal and whatsoever reviews.

message 33: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday they are my favorites to write but my least favorite to reread!

Matthew Gobin The book really does mesmerize you. The description of the capitol and the buildup until the last second amazes me so much. I also found myself having dreams about the book and I constantly thought what I would do if I were in that situation. When I read the book my heart would race as she built up to when the games officially started. The book has proved to be a future classic to me like you said. All pages were interesting a cohesive. My favorite character was by far Katniss. She shows so much leadership and wisdom that I only wish I could grasp one day. Character developement is superb. A fine piece of literature I must say.

message 35: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks for your comment, Matthew. I agree with all your thoughts on the book.

Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten* great review, Mark! It took me ages to pick this one up because of all the hype, but I literally couldn't put it down. And then I had to wait two agonizing days for CF and Mockingjay to come in the mail. Best series I've read in a long time.

message 37: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I agree, this was one of the best series that I've read in a long time too.

Jordan Leggett I have a twin sister we share everything

Matthias Wow! That review definitely upgraded the book (and YA segment as a whole) in my eyes, even though I never really did get lost in "The Hunger Games". The strings the author plays so well in the apparent simplicity you described somehow didn't resonate with me. Maybe it's because I'm an only child or because of my lack of encounters with nocturnal wildlife :-)I did love the dystopian setting though, of which I'm planning / hoping to discover more in the sequels.
I'm curious what you'd think about "The Fault in our Stars". I really disliked that book, but in light of what you said I might have been too harsh.

Sonja - Intellectual Badass Great review!

message 41: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Sonja!

Matthias wrote: "Maybe it's because I'm an only child or because of my lack of encounters with nocturnal wildlife :-)..."


Matthias wrote: "I'm curious what you'd think about "The Fault in our Stars".."

I have never read it. honestly I have no interest in ever reading it, just doesn't seem like my thing. I deal enough with the topic of cancer in my work life.

Justine Great review as usual :) I agree with you general comments about YA fiction and am a great fan of it myself. I don't like people who won't read something simply because it is YA - there is so much good YA fiction out there and you miss a lot by refusing to read any of it on principle.

message 43: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday thanks Justine. I haven't read a whole lot of YA compared to some folks and my overall experience has not been that great (although I have loved some). but I know there must be a good number of books comparable in quality to Hunger Games - I just have to find them!

Justine Cuckoo Song by Frances Harding is one I just read and would recommend to anyone. Hardinge is one of those lesser known authors who really deserves to be more well read as her work is quite brilliant.

message 45: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday oh I'm glad you recommended her! I actually have her Verdigris Deep, waiting to be read.

Justine I just picked that one up from the used bookstore! I've been on their call list for a year waiting for a copy to come in and a nice UK version finally turned up. Try to get to Cuckoo Song too though, you won't be sorry.:)

message 47: by mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

mark monday I will check it out!

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