Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games. Who hasn’t heard of these books? Well, Arie hasn’t but he doesn’t count. I got this book quite a while ago when one of my best friends insisted that I should read it and Vampire Academy. Ironically enough, she told me I’d prefer The Hunger Games but I decided to read the VA series first (last May). For whatever reason, I put off delving into this book.

It was chosen as a group read back in July and I was supposed to read it then but I forgot to take it to France with me. Consequently, it ended up just sitting in the book box by my side of the bed. Until now.

At the New Year’s Eve party I attended, we saw the trailer for the upcoming movie and everyone there just assumed that I would have read the book. This made me laugh at how predictable everyone expects me to be but nothing more. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when I saw the trailer again that I found myself wondering about the book.

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I fished it out.

Title: The Hunger Games
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholtastic Inc.
Target Audience: young adult
Pages: 374
Chapters: 27
PoV: 1st person
Tense: present tense

Story: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

(from Goodreads)

Thoughts and impressions: My very first impression was that the present tense was the wrong choice for this novel. The way it reads, it’s often like Katniss, the narrator, is addressing the reader, the naratee, by regaling them with stories of the past. For me, the present tense is much too restrictive for this. In the first part especially, Katniss often launches into side-stories to help explain her country as well as the origins and rules of the hunger games and other more personal stories about her own past. These forays into the past were all interesting and necessary for the world building, but jarring. All in all, I think the past tense would have given the novel a much deeper meaning than the present tense permitted it.

There are three parts in the book, but the story is essentially split into two parts: preparation and the games themselves. The preparation part didn’t really appeal to me much and it felt like it was drawn out too long. As soon as the games started, though, I was hooked. It was one of those books where I kept telling myself “just one more chapter” and the “just one” is never reached.

The games are where the author shone. She sends the reader through so many different experiences, caught up in Katniss’s head as she desperately attempts to survive. This is where emotional connections come into it all, too. Katniss’s connection with Rue was the very first time she had allowed her emotions to weigh in on any decisions since the very start of the story.

Katniss goes into the games in the place of her little sister, who was the one picked to be tribute. Prim is twelve years old and Katniss is very protective of her after having pretty much brought her up since their father’s death some years previously. Katniss would often insist that she was doing things for Prim, or ruminate about her, but as the reader I never felt emotionally invested in the little sister. She was just there.

Rue is another of the tributes, the 24 people who will enter the games arena. She’s the same age as Prim and the youngest person in the arena that year. At the risk of a small spoiler, Rue’s destiny becomes intertwined with Katniss’s. Even though I’d figured out her role as catalyst as of fairy early on, I still became very involved in little Rue’s destiny. I couldn’t have cared less about Prim, but I was desperately hoping that somehow they’d divise a way to see Rue survive the games as well. She filled the role of the little sister in need of protection a lot better than Prim did. I’m not entirely sure whether the author meant for this to happen. Really I think that I was supposed to care about both of them but I just didn’t.

Katniss herself was… I’m not sure. Too hard maybe. I could easily root for her but there were only certain times when I really connected with her. Maybe it was that she’d emotionally disconnected herself from everything that was happening so I couldn’t emotionally connect with it all. She was certainly an interesting YA heroine.

As a side note, this book is very reminiscent of Battle Royale. I wonder whether the author was inspired by events in BR or whether this sort of thing is easily to see in a dictatorial regime. It was certainly a very bleak view of the future.

Style: As I said, the present tense narration didn’t work for me. I think I would have much preferred it in the past tense.

Final verdict: The games themselves were great! Heart-in-mouth action, so very absorbing. Everything that led up to them, less so. 4 stars

Extra notes: I think there was some minor language but it could be that I’m getting it mixed up with my current read. No sex.


  1. I can't wait to read this one!

    1. I think it's certainly worth reading! I really enjoyed it. With all the criticism surrounding the last book I'm a bit worried about that one but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

  2. I'd love to have read your review. Coz I loved the book but the fOnt is hard on the eyes on my iPad. 

    1. Sorry about that. I've been on the fence about that font for a while now. I've updated it to one that should be clearer. :)

  3. Great review! Definitely one of the better ones I have read. It took me a long time to pick up this book. In the end, I'm glad I did. I liked it much better than I thought I would.
    Tracy Awalt Juliano

  4. Actually I thought the first person narrative was very suitable for Hunger Games - it was more personal, and also the readers experiences everything along with Katniss.

  5. @DovileI like the first person narrative. I read a lot of books narrated in the first person and I like getting in the character's skin. I didn't like the present tense narrative. It just didn't work for me in this case.

  6. I read the series not that long ago, just when the movie came out. It was amazing! They're well written and fast paced, I wasn't bored for a second! This book is a must read! Team Peeta forever! :D

  7. I wasn't blown away by this book, but I think I'm the only person in the world that feels that way. Either way, you wrote a great review. I agree with your opinion on the present tense. It just did not work in this novel. I also, personally, just did not like Katniss. And I hated the names. Anyway, great work!

  8. Hunger Games is definitely one of my fave book this year and the sequel, Catching Fire is awesome too! I saw the movie and it was great although I love the book better. Did you see the movie yet? :)

  9. The Hunger games is such a fast paced read.. Loved it. Especially the first and the last. I completed the entire triology in a week...despite work. Made me ditch sleep for many a days.


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