April 24, 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Young Adult Fiction
2008 Scholastic Press
Finished on 4/15/09
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Product Description:

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

Wow! It's been a while since I've read such a good teen novel. While not quite as good as The Book Thief, it sure comes a lot closer than Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series. It may even be as good as the Harry Potter books.

The Hunger Games was my book club's choice for this month's discussion. We had a fantastic meeting, and yes, we all loved it. I've gotten to where I don't read any reviews or even the dust cover blurbs prior to reading a book, as I prefer to go in completely unaware of what might take place between the covers. And since this was a book club choice, I just assumed I'd give it a try without really knowing what it was about. As I began reading, I immediately wondered what I was getting into. I'd heard very good comments about the book, but wasn't aware of the premise of the "games." I had an uneasy feeling that it would be a bleak, depressing story about killing and death, but I continued on and quickly became engrossed in the characters and story. I think the author did a very good job of keeping the story interesting and suspenseful without resorting to gratuitous violence and gore. There was no lingering detailed description of the actual killings and I never felt uneasy or disturbed by the acts of violence.

On life in Panem:

When I was younger, I scared my mother to death, the things I would blurt out about District 12, about the people who rule our country, Panem, from the far-off city called the Capitol. Eventually I understood this would only lead us to more trouble. So I learned to hold my tongue and to turn my features into an indifferent mask so that no one could ever read my thoughts. Do my work quietly in school. Make only polite small talk in the public market. Discuss little more than trades in the Hob, which is the black market where I make most of my money. Even at home, where I am less pleasant, I avoid discussing tricky topics. Like the reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games. Prim might begin to repeat my words and then where would we be?

On the Hunger Games:

The rules of the Hunger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.

Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch — this is the Capitol's way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. "Look how we take your children and sacrifice them and there's nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen."

To make it humiliating as well as torturous, the Capitol requires us to treat the Hunger Games as a festivity, a sporting event pitting every district against the other. The last tribute alive receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food. All year, the Capitol will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.

Fans of The Giver (Lois Lowry), Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card), Lord of the Flies (William Golding), The Most Dangerous Game (short story by Richard Connell) and, yes, the Twilight series (Stephenie Meyers) will not be disappointed. I know I'm not alone when I say I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Catching Fire, the second in the trilogy, which is due out on September 1st. Until then, I may have to check out the first in Collins' young reader series, Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles).

Further praise from fellow bloggers:

What an exciting YA book! I saw this when it first came out and didn't give it a second glance when I discovered it was science fiction (I am so not a fan), but then I started seeing it getting very popular on Amazon and decided to give it another look-see. I'm so happy I did because I was always eager to learn what was going to happen next. (Joy, from Thoughts of Joy)

What more can I say about a book that received rave reviews from Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer and Rick Riordan? Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is the best young adult novel I've read in over a year. It's an addictive, fast-paced story with a feisty teen heroine. (Lesa, from Lesa's Book Critiques)

Go here to read Stephen King's wonderful review on The Hunger Games.

Final words: Highly addictive!!


  1. I don't really like science fiction myself, but I did love Ender's Game. I've been reading such great reviews about this book that I had to add it to the list.

  2. "I've gotten to where I don't read any reviews or even the dust cover blurbs prior to reading a book, as I prefer to go in completely unaware of what might take place between the covers."

    That's been me my whole reading life! :) There's always exceptions to that (and I've learned to accept that) like when someone blurts something out or I accidentally read something or I am curious about a totally unfamiliar book - I'll skim a bit of the back of the book. However, for the most part, I love to jump in blind. Although, there are times when I would have benefitted from knowing a little something.

    About Hunger Games, I agree about the continued suspense. On an occasion or two, I was surprised at the turn of events. There was one scene that I thought was a little over the top and didn't care for, but other than that - great book.

  3. Framed - While this is set in the future and is a dystopic society, it doesn't have strong sci-fi feel to it. I think you'd enjoy it.

    Joy - I used to read the product description on the jackets, the author blurbs, the publisher blurbs, everything. Now, other than a quick perusal of the back cover to see if it's a book I'd even be interested in, I skip everything until after I've read and reviewed the book. Maybe I'm being extra cautious so I don't accidentally steal someone else's ideas for my reviews. Or, maybe I've been burned by reading too many spoilers on those back covers. In any event, like you, I enjoy going in blind.

    You'll have to email me about the scene you thought was a little over the top. I'm curious!

  4. I enjoy going in blind, too! I see reviews, but unless I have read the book, I actually very rarely read them. And, other than a 'browsing' expedition at the bookstore, I normally do not read the backs of the books I plan to read. Especially with authors I love. I just buy, read, and then go 'So, that's what it was about' when I reach the end!

    As to this book, I must say I have seen a lot of positive reviews. I haven't read the actual reasonings, but I have seen the ratings. People seem to love this book, but yet I have seen very few five out of five reviews! I guess I will have to wait and see when I get a chance to read it.

  5. Anonymous2:29 PM

    I really enjoyed Hunger Games too and am looking forward to the sequel. Another ya book I loved was Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey. I can't wait for the sequel to that one, which will be published in the fall. Hunger Games was a good choice for your book club. I'm just curious - is this a face-to-face book club?


  6. The world of YA fiction is just opening up to me, having spent most of my years in adult or baby-land. So to speak. I'm really enjoying some of the YA fiction I've been reading, in particular Savvy which I'm going to tour this week. Hunger Games sounds so intriguing I'll be sure to mention it to the upper grade teachers at my school.

  7. I really need to pick this one up. I've heard only wonderful things about it. Loved your review!

  8. This really is a fantastic book. Well written, inteligent and exciting. My favorite YA book at the moment is Mad Dog Moonlight by Pauline Fisk. Again another really well written book qith lots of twists and turns you don't always see coming.

  9. It's been really, really hard not buying this book, but I'm aided by the fact that the only decent bookstores are 50 miles away. Still . . . not a single person has said anything negative in any of the reviews I've read. Ouch. It hurts! Want to buy!!!

  10. Wow! This does sound good. I've seen it, but have never picked it up - I will now!

  11. I'm really interested in this one.

  12. My son read this last year and totally loved it. I have no idea why I haven't read it yet. It's been sitting in my TBR pile forever!! Great review!!

  13. Kailana - I'm the same way. If it's an author I love, I generally just grab the book without checking to see if it's something I'd really like. :) I love just discovering the story as it unfolds.

    Interesting observation about the lack of 5/5 ratings for this book. It's an excellent read, but something kept me from giving it that perfect score. Guess I kept thinking that The Book Thief is even better - and that's one I rated a perfect 5/5.

    Indigo - Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to take a look and see what it's about.

    Yes, it's a face-to-face book club.

    Bellezza - There's really a lot of wonderful YA/Teen fiction out there, isn't there? I haven't heard of Savvy, so I'm anxious to read your review.

    Tammy - Yes, you really do need to!! It's such a great book, I think you'll love it.

    Australian Online Bookshop - Thanks for the rec. I'll have to check out Fisk's book. Love getting good recommendations for teen reads. Thank you!

    Nancy - Can you believe there's not one voice of dissention for this book?! It's really very, very entertaining. Wonder what your youngest would think of it? I'll bet he'd like it, too.

    Tara - Let me know what you think!

    Bybee - If you time it right, you won't have to wait too long for the sequel. :)

    Staci - How old's your son? Move it to the top of your TBR pile. :)

  14. I will have to check this out -- it sounds really good (even though I hate to get involved in another series.)

  15. Katya - I know what you mean about starting a new series. However, this one is only a trilogy, so it's not quite as involved as some of the mystery series I've gotten interested in!

  16. I fully agree with your review of The Hunger Games - it's one of the best YA books I've read lately!

    Can I recommend, if you haven't read them yet, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother and Kristin Cashore's Graceling? I think you'd enjoy them both as well.

  17. Holly - Thanks for visiting with your comment. I agree - it's one of the very best YA books I've read in a long, long while! Whoohoo!

    Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check them out tomorrow at work.


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