Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games is a dystopian young adult novel, and, even if I'm slowly moving away from young adult literature, I love dystopias.

The world in this book is a place where most people are hungry everyday of their lives. Of course these are the ones who live in the districts: the poor ones, the descendants of the rebels that tried to take down the Capitol city, and lost.

As a way to control the population against future rebellions, and to entertain those who are not so unfortunate, the Government hosts the Hunger Games, in which a boy and a girl from each district – 24 children between the ages of 12 and 18, are sent into an arena, pitted against each other, fighting for survival and to the death. There is no escape from the games; once the Tributes are chosen, they either die or win. And only one wins.

Katniss, our heroine, volunteers as a Tribute, saving her younger sister from this fate. Together with Peeta, the boy Tribute from her district, she must try to win, to bring some respite from hardship and hunger to her district.

I liked The Hunger Games. It was well paced and gripping. Action was never missing from the story, but not at the expense of character development. I slowly came to like Katniss, who is quite cold, but made so by her life. By the middle of the book, I was truly rooting for her. The ideas on this book are horrific, after all this is a story where kids fight to death, but it doesn't use blood and guts to cause revulsion. It comes from imagining what it would be like.

The story could also be seen as a social commentary. The hunger in the far away districts, while there is so much in the Capitol – there is a lot of that going out in our world, no need for a dystopia in the far future. The reality TV aspect is also strong. People watch kids slaughter each other on TV. They watch them starve or freeze to death. And there are two sides to this as well. Because most watch it because they have to, but there are those who watch it for fun.

I really hope this gets more developed in the next books. I liked the construction of this imperfect world, twisted to its core. I would like to know what happens next, if it relates with the Capitol, or only District 12. There is potential for a lot in here.

And now for the final comment. The Teams. With hyped books, especially when there is a kickass heroine like Katniss, and when there is more than one male character of suitable age to be a romantic partner, readers will pick sides. It happened in Harry Potter, with the ship wars; it happened with Twilight, with teams for each possible character; and I'm quite sure we can trace this throughout time in literature – Team Darcy and Team Whickham; Team Paris and Team Menelaus, etc. In The Hunger Games, there is Gale, the childhood friend, and Peeta, the competitor/ally in the Games. So even before I finished the book I was asked: Which team?

To that I say: None!

But let me explain. I could see the romantic story being developed. It was hard to miss. However, it is much one sided, and I think there is a reason for that. Katniss has issues – trust issues, among other things. She doesn't need a boyfriend. I think she wouldn't know what to do with one. What she desperately needs is friends. Friends to help her trust in people, not to be so calculating and cold. More than Gale and Peeta, I think she needed more people like Rue and Cinna, who have showed her kindness where she expected none. To some extent Gale and Peeta also fit that role, but again as friends. Not boyfriends.

Another of my problems with picking a side is that I know a lot about one character, and nothing about the other. Hardly seems fair, right? Peeta, I liked. He was homely, pretending to be a bit dumb when he wasn't, and showing cunning when he or Katniss were in danger. Gale seems like he would also be a good sort of guy. But that is about as much as I could get from the book: a nice and quiet guy. Not much to go on. So I'll reserve judgement on the romantic aspect for the next book.

I know I will read the next two in the series, even if I'm expecting to be somewhat disappointed (from what I could gather from skimming the reviews for Mockingjay). With a more definite ending, The Hunger Games could easily be a standalone book – an a very good one at that.



  1. Well I'm happy you liked it, although I'm afraid the next books will disappoint you( :-( ), since you're expecting big developments in the Districts/Capitol/characters matters. But, that's up to you to decide, once you read them!

    I had a feeling you wouldn't take a side in the teams thing...and yes, you are right, she clearly does not want/need a boyfriend, the thing is: they want her, for sure, and it's not fair that she never says that plainly to them - even if she doesn't know what the hell she wants, and that back and forth "I can't live without Gale, no wait...I wouldn't be alive without Peeta" is just maddening... it was cute at first, but I got to a point in book 2 where I could only say, "Kat: screw you."

    Great review quigui!:p

  2. Glad you liked the review :D

    I am aware that I will probably be disappointed with the rest of the series. There's been so much buzz about this series that was hard not getting some spoilers and a general idea about it.

    It's hard to take a side mostly because there so little on Gale, and most is from Katniss' memories. Like I said, he seems like good guy, but I don't really know what he would have done if he had been on Peeta situation. The point forward in the series would have been to have Katniss grow up emotionally, get her out of her protective shell, and then have her decide which one (or even if any one) of them she wanted. While taking down the Government. And ending the games once and for all.

  3. *sigh* somehow she does all that (except growing up emotionally AND DECIDE grrr) but from my point of view, not in a OMG-THIS-WAS-BRILLIANT!! way ...pity :(

  4. I really liked this first book, and even yhough I was one of the dissaoinetd with Mockijay, I still urge to read on. It's still worth it, especially because Catching Fire is a pretty good book.

    Also, the TV side of the story you meantioned, as well as all the world's twisted ways, is very well developed in the next two books, especially on Mockingjay.

  5. I will read the next ones (already have them with me!). Of Catching Fire, I heard nothing but good things. Mockingjay is the one I'm dreading. But if there is some development on the dystopia, I think I will be happy.