Posted by: Ms. Matson | July 29, 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
New York: Scholastic, 2008
Genres: Young adult dystopian fiction
Interest level: 7th grade and up
AR Level: 5.3

Twelve boys, twelve girls.  Kill, or be killed.  Victory goes to the one who remains alive.  The Hunger Games is set in the nation of Panem in what once was the U.S.A.  As a show of power, each year the government forces a boy and girl between 12 and 18 from each of the twelve Districts to participate in the gruesome Hunger Games.  The whole nation is required to watch this morbid reality TV. show and acknowledge the superiority of the Capitol.  Katniss, a sixteen year old from District 12, volunteers to go in her younger sister’s place and doesn’t expect to return home.  As various turns give her real possibility of survival, she begins to question the nature of those who would turn her death into sport and fights for a better outcome.

I can’t believe I actually liked this book.  Not because I didn’t think it would be good, and not because it wasn’t good.  It was very, very good.  But I never would have thought of myself as a person who would enjoy such a violent story enough to stay up half the night reading it.  I had to know what would happen to Katniss and Peeta.  Collins draws out the characters in a slow but deliberate manner; as Katniss grew in her confidence and self-awareness, a better understanding was gained of some of the minor characters.  There is a good balance between action scenes and more introspective ones, between heart-pounding and heart-breaking.  Unlike Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, the use of present tense fit perfectly with the story, conveyed the immediacy of Katniss’s situations, and did not disrupt the flow of the story at all.

The Hunger Games is written for a young adult audience, and as such you know the likelihood of a tragic ending is about 1%.  In that respect it’s a safe read.  You know Katniss will survive.  I found the switch of the rules midway through the game, as well as some other scenes, a bit too contrived in order to fit the audience.

With The Hunger Games, I’ve realized something about dystopian novels written for a younger audience.  The writing is more focused on the individuals in the story than the corrupts officials or government.  In books like 1984, Brave New World, Anthem, etc, yes, there is a story about individuals, but the authors spend significant time detailing the larger workings of the government.  The young adult counterparts are more about the struggle of the individual and their growth as a person.  I suppose this is one thing that is common in most young adult novels, the struggle to find one’s identity, test the authorities, and move toward adulthood.

I started The Hunger Games knowing it was the first in a series so I expected there to be many unresolved issues at the end.  I was pleasantly surprised.  There is certainly more to be explored in Katniss’s world, but the story does not end in a major cliffhanger.  I would like to know whether Katniss will further challenge the Capitol and whether the second book will address more of the national situation.  We shall see.  Catching Fire comes out in September, but I’m number 59 on the hold list at the library, so it will be a while before I read more about Panem.

Edited to add: Here’s my review of Catching Fire.

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Responses

  1. […] The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is definitely my favorite among the dystopian stories I read this year.  I just finished reading the sequel, Catching Fire, and find that these books offer a refreshing and highly personal take on the theme of authoritarian and dysfunctional societies. […]

  2. […] My review of The Hunger Games is here. […]

  3. […] Book Reviews, Book Chatter, Book Addiction,  I’m Booking It, Devourer of Books, Teacher Girl’s Book Blog, Bibliofreak Blog, Literary Feline, Confessions of a Bibliovore, YA Reads, Nomad Reader, […]


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