The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
5 stars – I loved it!
Though it came out when I was still in elementary school, this book was very mainstream during my high school years. My mom previously bought and read the books, and I’ve finally gotten around to them. I made sure to avoid spoilers because I knew I would eventually read it, so I haven’t even watched the movie.
Read: Nov. 29 – Dec. 9, 2022.
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Could Not Put It Down!
Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old girl living in District 12 of Panem, the dystopian future country where North America used to be. Every year, the Capitol holds an event known as the Hunger Games, in which twenty-four tributes are taken from the twelve districts, and they are sent to an arena to fight to the death. One year, Katniss’s little sister’s name is called, and Katniss takes her place. She must now survive in the Games, where she could be killed at any moment.
For the last few months, I’ve gotten into the habit of setting aside time for reading within my work schedule. This is, of course, something I do for work, and I find that if I don’t set aside this time, I end up leaving books for long stretches, especially if I’m unmotivated to pick them up. Not so with this book. I usually read from 7 am to 8 am every weekday morning, but I found myself picking up this book even as early as 6:15 to read, despite early morning being my designated “personal time.”
Some of the things I liked most about the book were the point of view, the way the chapters ended, and the overall writing quality, which I will touch on later in the review.
The main character, Katniss, is very much a Hufflepuff to me. This is honestly something I thought of as I was reading (sorting the characters in the different Hogwarts houses). Some may argue with me, but I saw her as a very hardworking, family-oriented character, which screams Hufflepuff. Everything she does in the book is to keep her little sister, Prim, safe and healthy, so despite some of her craftiness or her bravery in the arena, the core motivators were her family.
Along with her in the cast were Peeta, Haymitch, Effie Trinket, and Cinna. I wasn’t sure what to make of Peeta in the beginning. The author does well in giving you background information as the story unfolds, sharing exposition in snippets, but since the book is solely from Katniss’s perspective, we only know what she knows, and that knowledge evolves throughout the expanse of the book. I didn’t like Effie or Haymitch much at first, but they grew on me over time as characters. They were colourful and were also used well in telling the story – and the interactions all really make you think retrospectively. Cinna was a character I loved from the beginning. He reminds me a lot of Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instruments. Not sure why, but that was how I pictured him. (As of writing this I still haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t wait to see how he looks.)
The POV was first-person, which I think was perfect for this book. It wouldn’t have been the same in third person because a lot of what we’re told is directly from Katniss’s perspective and how she views the world. We can see inside her head and read her thoughts, and even third-person omniscient wouldn’t have given the same effect. Knowing everything that she knows and only what she knows at the same time makes this book thrilling – especially since it’s written in present tense rather than past. Katniss could die at any moment and the story could be picked up by a different character. If it was written in the past tense, an argument could be made that she would have to be alive to recall the story, which automatically lowers the tension, so I love that it’s in the present.
The author also makes great use of cliffhangers at the ends of her chapters. I loved how each one ended – it drove me to keep reading. Paired with the tension of first-person present tense writing, the cliffhangers were honestly what kept me hooked. It really shows the audience that this book was written for. What’s more, some of the events even threw me off guard. I’m used to being able to see where a story is headed, so I was surprised by the number of times I had no idea what was going to happen next; it was refreshing. The pacing, at most times quick enough that I didn’t notice how far along I was getting, was wonderful throughout.
I liked how the story itself ended on a cliffhanger, because while normally I don’t like that sort of thing, the whole plot of the book was pleasantly completed, and the next major problem was introduced so naturally. It was woven through the entire book, and this is definitely the type of book that was written for the purpose of having another book following it. Some books out there (and most TV series) have new problems introduced in each subsequent book for the sake of having a problem to solve. Usually, a new villain shows up, or there is another event that goes awry, or something is thrown in at the very end of the book before it, so it appears to flow smoothly. Not with this one. The potential problem for the next book was built up right from the beginning and throughout the Games (which is this book’s problem). In the end, the new problem is just brought to the forefront because the Games are over, and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
I am, however, worried that the next books won’t be as entertaining because they obviously won’t be about the Games anymore. I’m not sure how it’s going to look going forward – if it’s going to be more about interpersonal relationships than the action that I prefer, but I will remain optimistic.
As for the writing style and quality, I really liked it. The sentences flowed well together, and though it majorly ignored the rules of grammar involving sentence fragments and such, the writing was low-level, meaning it was easy to read. It broke the rules, but it broke them well. At no point was I stumbling over any sentences or had to reread because either the wording didn’t make sense or I put the emphasis in the wrong places. It was all very cinematic; I could quite easily picture how the book’s narrative would show up in movie format, so I’m looking forward to comparing what I imagined to what the actual movie turns out to be.
One criticism of this book would be that some of the scenes made me gag or shudder; if I had a weaker stomach, I might not have been able to handle some of the worse situations that Katniss finds herself in. Another may be that the exposition was very obvious. Whenever more information was needed, Katniss was able to give it, so you knew exactly when she was explaining something for the audience’s sake, but there wasn’t any other way to do it. I suppose you could say that everything she gives tends to come up later, and there was no oversharing of unnecessary information. The cat, the goat, the bread, the hunting – everything comes back around before the end.
Mainstream or not, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I am already enjoying the sequel, Catching Fire. I began reading that on Monday.
This is a must-read for young fantasy/sci-fi readers; it’s great for fans of dystopia. There isn’t magic or anything like that, but there are somewhat supernatural elements in the story at least. It is a fun and engaging read, so as long as you don’t mind a bit of mild gore (it’s a death match, after all) definitely check this out.
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