Jason's Reviews > The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
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's review
Apr 13, 2012

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Recommended to Jason by: Amanda Musgrave
Read from April 01 to 09, 2012

Amanda read this book and wanted me to read it too. I was curious, so I gave it a whirl. Amanda and her sister read it before the movie came out, but I avoided images of the cast so as to have my own concepts of the characters.

In a dystopian, postwar future a nation called Panem exists in North America. After an uprising by satellite “districts” that was brutally suppressed, the “Capitol” rules with an iron hand and subjects the twelve districts (there were once thirteen) to an annual humiliation/sacrifice/game show called “The Hunger Games”, in which two teenage “tributes” from each district are pampered for a handful of days before hunting each other down (to the death) in a wilderness arena (broadcast live on television). The victor wins a life of comfort and increased support for their district, but there can be only one.

Katniss Everdeen is an eighteen year old girl from District 12 (West Virginia?) who volunteers as tribute when her younger sister is selected. Despite losing her father and regularly breaking the law to hunt animals in the wilderness, Katniss finds herself in an entirely new situation as the Capitol works diligently to give her model looks and a crowd of adoring fans before thrusting her into the arena to fight for her life. There she may have to work with, or against, the other tribute from District 12, the mysterious son of the local baker, Peeta Melark.

OVERALL: 3.4 out of 5
“The Hunger Games” is a good adventure story with interesting characters (just because I wasn’t a big fan of Katniss doesn’t mean other people won’t be) and a horrible, terrifying setting that (to me) evokes revulsion partially because it seems like something people could (and would) adapt to.

The Games themselves are kept interesting, there’s a fair bit of action but plenty of violence, some interesting survival bits (Katniss should be drinking rabbit blood if she’s dehydrating), and quite a few scenes of either clever thinking or fortuitous circumstances (though not necessarily unrealistic).

I’ve heard the sequels “destroy everything”. I don’t know about that, and I’m not against reading them, but for now I am not that interested; returning to the world of Panem would be like going back into a nightmare that I just escaped, and without a strong character (that I like) that could take me safely through it.

CHARACTERS: 3 out of 5
I have to admit that I didn’t particularly like Katniss until the end when she started to really wonder about what she wanted. For two thirds of the book she is gruff, tough, and a bit annoying. Petra was interesting, but his mystery was easy to see through (hint; there isn’t any), and the other tributes are either savage brutes who gleefully murder people (though some respect is still paid to their existence as human beings) or timid children who are either quickly dispatched or manage to survive a few days by hiding.

My favorite character is Haymitch Abernathy, District 12’s previous victor (from many years ago) who now spends most of his time drinking himself into oblivion but is tasked with training and caring for the two tributes. I particularly liked Katniss’s observation that, given the horrible offerings by District 12 in the past, Haymitch’s addictions and vices have more to do with feelings of futility than an actual absence of character.

Every character feels like they could be a living, breathing person... but except for Haymitch no one really jumped out at me as someone to really follow. Others, like Thresh, could be interesting but don’t get enough screen-time.

PACE: 4 out of 5
A book that spends half its length following an eighteen year old girl surviving in a wilderness environment doesn’t sound very interesting, but the author keeps things fast and interesting. The wind-down at the very end was a little disconcerting (almost dreamlike), but I think it’s supposed to be that way (because it’s disconcerting for the character as well).

STORY: 3 out of 5
As a fan of science fiction who is well versed in post-apocalyptic and dystopian settings, I can see a few plot holes or areas in “The Hunger Games” that aren’t well developed, but the good thing is that it (the holes) are so easy to overlook. This is mostly a character driven story, and no time is wasted as Katniss moves from one scene to the next, continually wondering about the other tributes, her place in the whole mess, and her loved ones back home (who are watching it all on television).

Some parts felt like wish fulfillment, but there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily; that’s what books do. The author’s wishes probably just aren’t anything like mine.

DIALOGUE: 3 out of 5
I think it is a hard task to present a dystopian society, with the dark memories of a past that readers today can’t necessarily relate to, and still give the character’s dialogue that feels appropriate as well as being clear to understand. Through the dialogue, these characters do feel like they have this background baggage in their minds; they don’t feel like modern actors pretending they have lived through horrible things.

I will say that Katniss, on more than one occasion, feels like she’s overacting; her dialogue feels too rehearsed, her change in moods to sudden, her mind too quick to catch up to something that is obvious to the readers but actually shouldn’t be obvious to her. And a couple of other times it’s the exact opposite, where I feel like the story is being pushed through Katniss’s thoughts and other avenues (that were obvious to me) are shut out because she doesn’t give them a moment’s thought or word.

No other characters really ever feel like they’re overacting through their dialogue though.

This book is easy and quick to read. Descriptions of land navigation (orienteering might be the better word, since there are no maps, no compasses, no protractors, no grease pencils, and not even once does a character discern North by looking at the transit of the sun or stars (it should be noted that it’s also established that the Capitol has such control over the environment, the characters wonder if the Moon is the real Moon or a clever illusion)) are easy to understand. The action is swift, the days bleed into each other (probably capturing how it feels to the participants of the Games), and the reader’s time is never really wasted.

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