Pub. Date: July 1, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Paperback, 374pp
Age Range: Young Adult
Series: Hunger Games #1
Description from Amazon.com:
My first reaction after finishing The Hunger Games was this: Why did I wait so long?!
I knew this series was all-the-rage, but sometimes that keeps me away. Hype can lead to expectations which can end in disappointment. I waited for the paperback release. And even then, it sat on my shelf. So if you are reading this review to decide whether or not to read the book…you can stop right now. Stop. Drop what you are doing. Get thee to a bookstore or library. Get a copy in your hands. Let the reading commence!
Although she certainly didn’t create the genre, Suzanne Collins may be responsible for the Dystopian trend the YA publishing world is currently enjoying. Just as Stephanie Meyer ushered in a plethora of vampire/paranormal romance books, Collins paved the way for more post-apocolyptic page-turners. And it’s no wonder, because with The Hunger Games, Collins crafted a nearly flawless book.
Panem is an interesting place. There are, or rather were, 13 districts in this post-apocolyptic world. The unlucky 13th was destroyed during a rebellion against the totalitarian government. Interesting choice, as I can’t help but think of the 13 original colonies that were America’s beginning. Could this world then be our future? Could we be controlled by a government that cares more for power than for its citizens?
Collins has made a society that feels realistic and plausible, which makes her fictional horrors perils worth consideration. The writing is not flashy or self-conscious. Collins avoid common YA cliches and pitfalls and serves her novel best by staying out of its way. As John Green (yes, THE John Green) wrote in the NY Times: “…by not calling attention to itself, the text disappears in the way a good font does: nothing stands between Katniss and the reader, between Panem and America.”
Perhaps the biggest strength of the novel is its cast of characters. Many are vividly drawn and memorable. This is especially important in a series. Several of the secondary characters are compelling enough for you to care about them – whether it’s to fall in love with them, laugh at them, cheer for them, or want to know more about them. One will even break your heart.
Katniss, our heroine, is a singular girl. She’s strong, tough, and a little cold. But it’s not surprising that a girl whose life has been a struggle for survival is sometimes lacking skills in the finer feelings. While detached and calculating she may be, heartless she is not. That’s why it isn’t difficult to love this smart, strong female lead. Her emotional inepitude makes her imperfect and that makes her more loveable. I won’t go into the cast of characters beyond Katniss because you should really meet them on your own terms.
Lastly, The Hunger Games is well-plotted and perfectly paced. You’ll find yourself turning the pages, devouring the tale, and then reaching for the next. Did I tell you to grab it? Let me revise that. If you are late getting the book like me, you’re in a lucky spot. All the books in the trilogy have been published. Grab all three at once! You’ll probably not come up for air until you’ve read the whole shebang!
A word to those leery about the subject matter. (I know you’re out there — Hi, Mom!) Yes, the premise is brutal. Kids fighting to the death for survival is grim. But let’s be clear about something: The Hunger Games does not glorify violence. If you want to worry about your kids being influenced negatively by popular entertainment, worry about some of the stuff on television, worry about those crazy video games they play like Grand Theft Auto. Worry about those CDs with warning stickers. But please, don’t let your fear keep your children from picking up this book. It’s entertainment, yes. But it’s not disposable or gratuitous. It is literature. They will learn something about themselves. Thematically, the book is about sacrifice, love, freedom, and humanity. In this fictional reality, just like in real life, adversity and struggle can bring out either the best or the worst in people. When tested, it is up to each of us to decide how we will respond. My mother, who disliked the premise of this book, happened to love Lord of the Flies. Newsflash, Mom: These two books really aren’t that far apart.