Book Review – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Copyright: Suzanne Collins 2008
Blurb Extract: …In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelves girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.
Plot: The blurb just about sums it up. The girl is the heroine ‘About time’ I hear you girls shout. ‘What? I’m not reading about some girl with a bow and arrow’ please guys, you’ll miss out.
I’m assuming quite a few of you have seen the film that followed this book, I haven’t yet. I always try to read the book first or I end up seeing the actor in my imagination instead of the character drawn by the author. Mind you I haven’t avoided the PR around this new classic so did see J Law anyway. No bad thing.
The story is told in first person, from Katniss’ point of view and that works really well. If she can’t see it or doesn’t know about it it isn’t in there.
It also spans just a few weeks in time, so it rushes along like a train, ah ha, clever use of a real train to take you through the landscape too! As there are two sequels, the first of which I’m reading it’s not a true spoiler to say she survives.
Whilst there is death and destruction Ms Collins worked out how to kill off characters without turning her heroine into a mass murderer. It’s a bit contrived in places but it’s forgivable as the book carries you through the story so well and unless you are a true rebel you do want Katniss to win.
The ‘near future’ is the place my own work in progress is set so the futuristic elements intrigue me. Are we already there though?
Genetically modified insects – tick
Game Shows where death is a real possibility – tick
Large division between the rich in a big city, poor in the country – tick (I’m in the UK, go figure)
Surgically enhanced, plucked, dyed and tattoed self obsessed citizens – er – tick
TV shows and viewers demanding the downfall of others – tick
Government controlled TV – tick
By now you’ll see the theme, it’s scarily not that futuristic, which why this fiction book works so well.
Katniss is an independent girl, her parents on a back burner (won’t spoil it by saying more) so she’s learnt lessons the hard way. Skilled archer and hunter. Her back story is cleverly told with snippets of childhood memories triggered along the way.
Peeta, the boy chosen along side Katniss. A complex character, due to the first person point of view you don’t get to know his motives, which effectively adds to the suspense.
Gale, a lifelong friend who is left behind when the games commence. The other side of the triangle of emotions.
Various new world assistants and Katniss’ family flit around on the outskirts of the plot, as do the other competitors. Ms Collins keeps the main characters limited to just a few. A cynic may say it’s a neat way of writing in preparation for a film deal. I felt I knew Katniss but none of the others, her fate was what kept me reading.
It’s written by a screenwriter, it shows. You are drawn instantly into a sprawling landscape. That changes into another and another similarly stretched out.
Ms Collins used a Greek Myth, Theseus and the Minotaur as her inspiration. There is no such thing as a truly new story. The Hunger Games is a new classic, studied in schools, you can buy study guides where true experts give opinions. There are blatant references to ancient history, names such as Octavia and Flavius, reminders maybe that we haven’t learnt too much since the bad old days.
This book falls within the relatively new genre of YA (young adults) so there is romance, no sex though. By the way there is a new genre creeping onto the bookshelves ‘New Adult’ which is YA with sex, odd really surely a new adult is just an adult. Anyhow, back to this brilliantly told story.
Yes, if you know a ‘young adult’ buy them the trilogy. Don’t dismiss it if you are a ‘grown up.’
It’s a quick book to read and is crammed with cliff hangers to keep you jumping from one chapter to the next.
The marketing has always been excellent, it even has different adult and young adult covers.
The Hunger Games follows a pattern, it’s why I picked it up, to study how it’s put together. Learn from the successful. Ultimately the formula doesn’t matter. This book is a classic for a reason, it’s a great read. A page turner that is told well.
Oh and one last thing – the boy lives in a bakery, the new world is called panem – guess what that means? Bread – genius!
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