The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Book Review

hunger gamesI’ve been told by a dozen people that I must read this book. I now submit the same charge to you, but with a warning. This book will take over your life. It will glue your body to the couch and your eyes to the page. Chores will go undone and sleep seem not so important until you reach the end of all 374 pages.

Suzanne Collins has created a futuristic world in which the government of Panem, in retaliation for a past revolution, punishes its people by hosting an annual tournament called the Hunger Games. Each of the twelve districts of Panem must send two tributes, a boy and a girl, to the games. But only one of the twenty-four can win. Because only one of the twenty-four can live.

A word of caution: this book contains violence. The Hunger Games is a fight to the death. Against this extreme backdrop, the book explores themes of individuality and rebellion against a harsh government, the relationships and reactions of contestants pitted against one another, and the budding romance between sixteen-year-old Katniss and her fellow contestant from district 12. But is his affection real, or a strategy? For only one of them can survive.

I wouldn’t say the book is without weak points. I felt it never reached its full potential in driving home conclusions and hard lessons. What I mean is, for all that happened to her, I didn’t feel like Katniss took much away from her experience, and in YA lit, I like a dynamic character above nearly all else. Also, at times I struggled to hang up my disbelief and blindly accept the truth of this world. Like when unseen cameras track every movement of every contestants, even inside tight, dark caves. Or when fully-prepared meals dispense at the touch of a button. But it is this unreality that keeps the violence from becoming overwhelming. Other times I felt the author gave unsatisfactory explanations, that I was expected to go along with something that wasn’t quite validated (like that theme of revolution – what revolution?). But despite these small irritants, The Hunger Games kept me turning pages. I loved Katniss, hard-headedness and all, the tension never relented and not one of my predictions worked out.

The sixth graders who sold me on this book hang at the very bottom edge of its audience. I would recommend it for readers 14 and older. And I’d also recommend caution over the coming movie. In a book, violent scenes are only as graphic as a reader’s imagination. A movie, however, provides an image that leaves no room for innocence. And this book has potential for some very graphic scenes.

In conclusion, The Hunger Games offers a powerful and compelling story along with some horrifying moments. Parents of advanced middle-readers, don’t rule it out, but I’d advise you to read it first and exercise discretion.

Trilogy sequels:

Catching Fire (read my review)
Mockingjay (read my review)
 
Books available as a box set.

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