Review The Hunger Games (Book 1) by Suzanne Collins, A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008

Praise for The Hunger Games

#1 New York Times Bestseller 
Publishers Weekly Bestseller 
Horn Book Fanfare 
Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008 
School Library Journal Best Book of 2008 
Booklist Editors’ Choice 
New York Times Notable Book of 2008 
Kirkus Best Book of 2008 
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice 
USA Today Bestseller

The Hunger Games takes place in a nation known as Panem, established in North America after the destruction of the continent’s civilization by an unknown apocalyptic event. The nation consists of the wealthy Capitol and twelve surrounding, poorer districts under the Capitol’s dictatorial control. The Capitol exploits the districts for their natural resources and cheap labour. District 12 is in the coal-rich region that was once Appalachia, while the Capitol is in the Rocky Mountains.

As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, a contest in which the “tributes” must fight to the death in an outdoor arena until only one remains. The event is televised.

The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th Hunger Games in place of her 12-year-old sister, Primrose. The male tribute is Peeta Mellark, a former schoolmate of Katniss who once gave her bread from his family’s bakery when her family was starving.

Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol. In the few days before the Games start, they are advised and supported by a team consisting of their drunken mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, the sole living District 12 victor of the Hunger Games; Effie Trinket; and two fashion stylists and three prep workers who help each tribute look his or her best. Katniss’s stylist, Cinna, is the only person at the Capitol she considers a friend. They are also introduced to the general public, given some training, and evaluated by the Gamemakers. Katniss and, to a lesser extent, Peeta set themselves apart from the other tributes. Rue, the petite 12-year-old girl tribute from District 11, takes to following them around.

Each tribute is interviewed on television by Caesar Flickerman; they use the opportunity to try to obtain “sponsors”, who can send them potentially life-saving gifts during the Games. In his interview, Peeta reveals his longtime unrequited love for Katniss. At first, Katniss believes this is simply a ploy to gain sponsors and make her let her guard down. (Much later, she comes to accept he is sincere.) Haymitch promotes their image as “star-crossed lovers”.

Nearly half the tributes are killed in the first day of the Games, fighting over the weapons and supplies strewn around their starting point. Katniss nearly dies, ignoring Haymitch’s advice to flee immediately. She uses her well-practiced hunting and survival skills to hide in the woods. A few days later, an artificial fire drives Katniss toward the others. She is spotted and treed by the “Careers” (tributes from the richer, loyal districts who have trained intensively for the Games) … and Peeta, who seems to have allied with them. Rue is hiding in a nearby tree. Silently, she directs Katniss’s attention to a tracker jacker nest. Katniss saws through the branch holding the nest, sending it plummeting down. The venom of the flying insects kills one girl and drives the others away. However, Katniss is stung herself and begins hallucinating. Peeta returns, but instead of killing her, he tells her to run away.

She and Rue become allies and friends, but Rue is later fatally wounded by another tribute, whom Katniss kills with an arrow. Katniss sings to Rue until she dies and spreads flowers over the body to show her defiance against the Capitol. In an unprecedented move, Rue’s district sends Katniss a gift of bread.

Then a rule change is announced, allowing the tributes from the same district to win as a couple. Katniss finds and nurses a seriously wounded Peeta, while continuing to act the part of a girl in love to gain gifts. When the Gamemakers announce that what each contestant needs most will be provided at a feast, Katniss risks her life to obtain medicine for Peeta. She is pinned to the ground by Clove, who gloats about Rue while toying with the helpless Katniss. That talk costs Clove her life, however; Thresh, the male District 11 tribute, kills her, but spares Katniss – once – for Rue’s sake. The medicine saves Peeta’s life.

Finally, Katniss and Peeta are the last two survivors, but the Gamemakers cancel the rule change in an attempt to force them into a dramatic finale, in which one must kill the other. Instead, Katniss defiantly retrieves highly poisonous “nightlock” berries and offers half to Peeta. Realizing that Katniss and Peeta intend to commit suicide, the Gamemakers announce that they are the victors of the 74th Hunger Games.

Although she receives a hero’s welcome, Katniss is warned by Haymitch that she has now become a target after defying the Capitol so publicly. Afterward, Peeta is heartbroken when he learns that her actions in the arena were part of a calculated ploy to gain sympathy from the audience. However, Katniss is unsure of her own feelings.

 

 

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[The Hunger Games] is a violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense… I couldn’t stop reading.” – Stephen King, Entertainment Tonight

“I was so obsessed with this book that I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn’t have to stop reading… The Hunger Gamesis amazing.” – Stephanie Meyer

“[The Hunger Games] is a great book, and very thought-provoking. Read this along with your teen and discuss it.” – Charlaine Harris

“Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced.” – John Green, New York Times Book Review

“A plot-driven blend of suspense, science fiction, and romance.” – USA Today

“Enthralling, imaginative and creepy.” – Los Angeles Times

“{A} superb tale” – Booklist, starred review

“Readers will wait eagerly to learn more.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

About the Author

 

Top customer reviews

Meerkat

Before reading The Hunger Games trilogy, I had more than a few people tell me the first two books were good, but the last one was lacking. I couldn’t disagree more. The story is harsh, gruesome, and bleak. It had to be. It’s a first person account of an individual who has survived two Hunger Games and plays a major role in a revolution. Of course it’s going to be brutal. Had the story drawn to a close with Katniss standing majestically with trumpets blaring and flags waving, it would have been completely unrealistic.

I also heard a few people express disappointment in the conclusion of the Katniss/Peeta storyline. I’ve read people’s reviews taking issue with how Katniss and Peeta are represented at the end of Mockingjay, asking “Where’s the passion?” Passion? Are they insane? First of all, the story is told in first person by a character who is admittedly not at all comfortable being demonstrative and doesn’t respond well to those who are. There was never going to be a hearts/candy/flowers declaration happening here. Peeta has a borderline obssessive love for Katniss throughout most of the trilogy. The way I read the story, by the end of the first Hunger Games, she returns the feeling. Though hesitant to think why she does the things she does, or to state it aloud, she expresses it in so many different ways throughout the remainder of the trilogy, there really is no doubt. Despite the fact that she is suffering major PTSD, she agrees to take on the stress of being the symbol of revolution and take a front line role to bring him back. Regardless of the amount of trauma they both endure, they still eventually turn back to each other. Gale was a strong character, but he had not gone through what Katniss did in the arena and would never have been able to understand that part of her. The time she spends clinging to him and avoiding Peeta is essentially an attempt to return to the person she was before the games (which was never going to happen). Peeta was the walking, living, breathing reminder of the trauma endured. I thought it telling that Peeta returned to Region 12. Like Gale, he could have gone anywhere when it was all over, yet he went where Katniss was. Really, Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch needed each other to become human again (or as human as they were ever going to be). Katniss reminded me of uncles I had who, when they returned from war, sat in a darkened room, staring at a wall day after day for over a year before they could handle being amongst the living again.

I’ll admit part of me would have liked President Snow’s demise to be more than it was. Considering the amount of suffering he caused, part of me is bloodthirsty enough to have wanted him to suffer a great deal more. There are also characters I would have liked to survive (Finnick, Cinna, and Prim to name a few), but their deaths helped to illustrate the randomness and unfairness of death in wartime.

There are parts of this story we’ll never get to see because it is told from Katniss’ point of view. We see only what she sees and know only what she thinks is going on. I, for one, would be interested in knowing more about events of the story from Peeta and/or Haymitch’s point of view. Peeta’s fight back from his memory hijacking would be an intriguing read.

Ultimately, I found this book engaging, infuriating, exhausting, and funny all at the same time. To have had Katniss serene and sweetly declaring life to be sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows would have been absurd. She is with a husband (partner?) whom she loves and is utterly devoted to. She has two children she loves, but is worried what they will think when they know the role their parents played in the past. She and Peeta are happy, but remain somewhat haunted which is perfectly realistic for what the characters have gone through.

JJW

I saw the first Hunger Games movie before I ever read the books, but I enjoyed the movie enough to buy the Kindle book version. This is a well written trilogy, and you experience this world from the first person perspective of the Katniss Everdeen character.

Both the Hunger Games and Catching Fire are very well written with a tight narrative, but the storytelling gets a bit too expansive and jumbled by The Mockingjay. I would say the 4 movies are the most faithful and accurate adaptations of novels I have ever watched. There were very few deviations from plot, theme, and character. The only notable of those would be the elimination of Madge Undersee and Delly Cartwright and the increased presence of Effie Trinkett in the Mockingjay. I found Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2 better than the book, actually.

Overall, I find the premise and setup of the story quite interesting, if not a little bit too plugged into the Climate Change hysteria. It becomes obvious from the books that the real issue creating slavery and hunger in this dystopian world is government control and overreach, not rising sea levels. There appears to be abundant food out beyond the walls of these districts, if only the people had the courage or opportunity to venture out there.

In summary, a fast read for readers of any age and an excellent addition to the debate and discussion of government power, oppression, and other relevant topics.

M.A. De Neve
Imagine a lottery. It’s sort of like a draft lottery they had during the Viet Nam War. It’s sort of like the lottery in Shirley Jackson’s short story where the winner is stoned to death.
There are two “winners” in this Hunger Games lottery, a girl and a boy. Actually they are selected – drafted. Their names are pulled out at random. They get to compete with eleven other boys and eleven other girls in a war- games-type arena. There can only be one winner in the Hunger Games – the person still alive at the end of the games.
We follow Katniss, a girl from District Twelve, the poorest district, and Peeta, the baker’s son, from the same district. Peeta has had a crush on Katniss since she was five years old. She owes him for giving her bread when her family was starving. She feels she should repay this debt. Now they might be forced to kill each other.
The pageantry leading up to the games at times resembles a beauty contest, at times resembles training for participation in a less-lethal sport and at times it resembles preparation for a bullfight.
This is a terrifying story, but it’s also a life enhancing a story as the 24 children (ages 12 to 18) in the games sometimes form alliances based on friendship or need. It’s hard to trust anyone knowing that person might soon become your killer.
There’s are lessons in survival here. There’s also romance as Katniss isn’t sure if she loves Peeta, but she cares for him enough to fight for his survival as well as her own.

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