Annalisa's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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Apr 08, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-club, young-adult, dystopia, speculative, sci-fi, cover
Read from June 03 to 05, 2009

I started this book thinking the idea was preposterous: a government choosing to squelch rebellion by forcing its citizens to give up their children as contenders in the ultimate reality show of death to the last survivor. Yeah right, and yet it reminded me a lot of the absurdity of the Nazi party, child armies in Africa, and even back to the gladiators of the Roman empire. I realized I believed a government could be this arrogant and wrathful, that society could be this absurd, that the common people would be too afraid to fight back. When people are pitted against each other instead of turning on the establishment they often fight each other within the failed system, fighting for that elusive top spot or ignoring the pain of others grateful to escape tragedy themselves.

I soon found myself intensely involved in the Hunger Games and hoping for a certain outcome that would certainly bring about the death of many children but save our brave heroine. Once you're in, what option do you have but to play and survive? Collins did an amazing job of taking an unbelievable and predictable storyline and making it believable and unpredictable. Complete with an impossible love interest, twists in the arena to keep you guessing, and both sympathy and hatred for the other characters, the book is hard to put down. I stayed up late to reach the conclusion that would seem obvious but was still evasive when I could conceive many alternate endings. In some ways the story reminded me of Lord of the Flies, but without as frustrating of a dues ex machina ending.

I found it interesting that even in this life and death situation, the kids refused to do anything that would displease the Capitol and make them look rebellious or unwilling to play, or worse emotional and disturbed by death. They did not bond with each other, help each other, or ever want to be indebted by anyone's kindness. Sad that the gravest error would be vulnerability of spirit because the tough ones are the ones to survive. While Katniss gets out of having to do a lot of the killing, she still plays her part, and even being the cause of one death is too many. I found it interesting that they switch to survival mode and kill without thought or regret. I'm sure the regret and nightmares will come later, but we as the readers have to feel the sadness of the deaths now, and live with our own relief that a child died who wasn't Katniss. There is obviously a lot of death hashed out, but only a handful experienced by our narrator. There is one death that is rather gruesome, but for the most part, I thought the subject matter handled appropriately for YA. Nonetheless the subject matter is not appropriate for younger children.

My one compliant about the novel would be the overuse of fragments. As a grammar freak, I'll let powerful fragments go. On occasion. As a literary device. But you throw five and six back to back. Just for effect. And all I'm doing is counting. How many are going by before we're back to complete sentences. There were a few paragraphs with way too many. But that's just a style difference. And the story is worth it. A good tale and a thinker.

Even after I closed this book, I found myself mulling over the statements about society, our gruesome need for reality TV, our shallow obsession with looks, how much a community will let others suffer as long as they are safe, and the strength of the human spirit when backed up against the wall. I enjoyed Katniss' emotionally detached character, Peeta's vulnerable goodness, and Rue's small but fighting spirit. Now I want to learn more about Gale. A good strong female protagonist and a great set up for the sequel which I will be reading. How will the Capital be brought down? Who will Katniss chose? Can she stand by and let another gruesome show go by training the tributes from her village without action? Can this society be saved or is it beyond redemption? I'm intrigued.

ETA: I've been thinking a lot about the messages in the Hunger Games with all the hype for the movie. Good dystopias are warnings, something to make you mull over trends in society by making these public wrongs absurd and larger than life. Here are some of the comparisons I found between Panem and our society:

-Overindulgence. The plastic surgery, the bright peacocky colors, the time and money spent primping, the obnoxious outfits that one could never work in or survive in come catastrophe. The shoes Effie Trinket wears in the movie are popular today and nobody can walk properly in them. Our obsession with looks is headed toward the unimaginable level of the Capitol. And the overindulgence doesn't stop at appearances. The overeating, the mcmansions, party-the-time lifestyle. Our shallow, keeping-up-with-the Joneses society is heading there.

-Entitlement. The people of the Capitol don't care where their resources come from, who works and dies for it, or how limited the supply is. They don't conserve; they don't say "thank you"; they don't look beyond themselves. The degree of separation from them and their food and resources means they have no appreciation for it. It's like us with our grocery stores full of already slaughtered food and the diamonds we were fought hard for in Africa. You can say the entitlement is a lesson for the 1% out there and you can say the entitlement is a lesson for the anti-1% who feel entitled for their government to support them. Even the poor in America are still better off than most of the world. We are all the 1% and the sense of entitlement from Americans could be our downfall.

-Desensitization. Reality TV, video games, gruesome movies (like the Hunger Games :) ) have desensitized us. As horrific as the Hunger Games is (not the book but the actual Games in a society), how far off are we when girls throw parties to watch other girls get their hearts broken on The Bachelor, or when we feel nothing as people starve through a month on Survivor, or break out in fights on shows on MTV. We stop shy of death, but how long before push the envelope there too? How long before a gladiator-style game becomes popular for us too? After all, we are following the footsteps of the Roman Empire. I've been reading articles on Yahoo! like crazy the past few weeks about how to do Katniss' braid or what food to eat in celebration of the movie release. We are as bad as the Capitol in some cases.
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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amy gretchen i really like this book and was hook from the get go. It actually reminded me of Lord of the Flies a bit too and I'm not sure why except it came to my mind while reading it.

I was expecting it to be a bit more gruesome, but like you said I think Collins handled the deaths quite well. In fact, I thought she did an excellent job of making sense of the whole situation. So many books like this, where the odds are stacked against the heroine, out of no where they prevail for no reason at all. I loved that everything made sense and could have completely happened.

I actually really enjoyed the character Katniss and am looking forward to seeing what she will happen in the next one...I'm so glad I don't have to wait for it to be published.

message 2: by Lisa (last edited Jul 19, 2010 09:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Ha! I just saw your vote so I read your review. I didn't notice all the grammar; I was so engrossed in the story.

I assume you've read Catching Fire by now?!

I'm going nuts waiting for Mockingjay.

Annalisa Nuts! I'm counting down. I read this the summer before Catching Fire came out. I didn't have to wait as long as you. I can't imagine.

Collins is a good writer and I like everything about her writing (it's tight and clean and descriptive and engrossing) except the fragments, but I think that may have to do more with a growing trend than with her. She just uses them more than anyone else I know. As far as I'm concerned, she can do whatever she wants and I'll still eat up her stories.

Lisa Vegan Yes, she's a wonderful storyteller!

message 5: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Adamic An excellent piece of work!

Melissa  Paranormally Romanced I enjoyed your review the book, i felt the same way with many of your comments. i really like as well how it really coould have been a darker, bloodier book and so happy the author didnt do that. she had such great character development. my only critique of the book was her style of writing it drove me crazy i had to try and ignore it the whole time. I really didnt like her first point of view in the presnt tense. i dont know why but it reads really wierd. thanks for your review, glad to know other share similar thouhgts :-)

Annie I enjoyed your review of the book. I agree with all of what you wrote. This book definitely reminded me of both Lord of the Flies as well as 1984.

Annalisa Thanks, Annie.

Lisa Vegan Annalisa, I'm glad you posted over in Otis's review. I've always really liked your review also.

Annalisa Thanks. I've been following your comments all day.

On a side note, you might be interested in this map of Panem:

message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Oh, cool. The underwater areas explain a lot to me!!!

Annalisa Lisa,
My review for Hunger Games is subpar to a lot of my other reviews. I just went in and vocalized some of my thoughts on the correlation to the Capitol and our society that I've been thinking about lately. There are a ton of better reviews out there than mine.

message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Ditto here, Annalisa, although I do like your review. I liked this book so much it's one of those for which I couldn't write an adequate review, let alone a good one. That's true of many of my favorite books. When I see others' reviews though I do get inspired. Maybe if I reread the trilogy at some point, I will try to write a worthy review.

Annalisa It's so hard to write worthy reviews of books you love.

message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Vegan Annalisa wrote: "It's so hard to write worthy reviews of books you love."

It is. I've been able to write a few, most of books I've read since I've joined Goodreads, but typically I can't.

Trudie It also reminded me of sending our children to Iraq, Afghanistan, Viet fight to the death.

Annalisa Trudie,
And the sad thing, and maybe this is part of the comparison, is how little concern and attention it gets.

Trudie Annalisa wrote: "Trudie,
And the sad thing, and maybe this is part of the comparison, is how little concern and attention it gets."

Yes, absolutely.

Heeral I agree with the comparisons, we indeed are becoming more and more like the Capitol...

Annalisa Dixie,
Sounds interesting. I haven't heard of it. That is a very sad statistic.

message 21: by Elizabeth (last edited Dec 29, 2012 01:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elizabeth Hertzberg Excellent review. I read this book more out of curiosity than anything else in the beginning. I work in the entertainment industry and my hairdresser's young daughter (age 9) wanted to attend the premiere of the movie. I was game to try to get her a pass for it. But then I started looking up reviews on the internet and learning more about the subject matter. There was a lot of controversy surrounding these books, so decided to read The Hunger Games to see what all of the fuss was about.

Admittedly, I was hooked from the word go. I ran out to get the other two books in the series and would read them until my eyes were closing, because I couldn't put any of them down.

I understand that many people feel that there are important and valuable lessons about life and society as a whole to be learned in the story that is told and I do agree. But had I known how intense the subject matter to be, I would not have been so agreeable to try to arrange for a 9-year-old to see the movie (while her mother was perfectly fine with her seeing it).

After reading the full series, I believe that this is a true YA book, for young adults and not appropriate for anyone under 16.

Annalisa My daughter is 11 and I finally broke down and let her read it this year since all her friends have. Initially, I had intended 13, but even her teacher was discussing it in class. I think they understand on a simpler level--not that all the death doesn't affect them. It does. And I've secretly been happy that Catching Fire didn't start off interesting enough to captivate her because Mockingjay is hard to read. Some day I'll encourage to finish the series, but for now I'm happy to encourage her to read The Hobbit. So while the girls who think this is all about Gale vs Peeta annoy me somewhat, I'm glad the younger ones are somewhat shielded. They can revisit it at a later date and understand some of the harsher points then.

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