The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)by Suzanne Collins Published 01 Jan 1970
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Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?
In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before - and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.
"The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)" Reviews
I have got to stop poking fun at this series with memes. Someone take them away from me!
Nah, I didn't love this book. I know I'm in the minority, and part of me is glad about that. I mean it when I say this book deserves recognition, and honestly, I'd rather people were reading this and following a heroine as independent as Katniss, rather than a simp like Bella or Bethany. The Hunger Games is high-quality YA, intelligently written, and despite its flaws it's worthy of success.
Here's where I become one of those lone rangers on a forum uttering the forbidden words: Battle Royale.
Stop! Put down the pitchforks! Let me make my point, okay?
At the risk of sounding like Hipster Mermaid, I read BR and watched the movie long before I discovered THG. So the second I read the synopsis, the first thought that popped into my head was, "Sounds a lot like Battle Royale!"
It reads a lot like BR, too. I'm sorry, THG fans; but you can literally pair up characters from this book and fit them snugly into the moulds of those from BR. Katniss is Nanahara, Peeta is Noriko, Cato is Kazuo Kiriyama (he even volunteered, just like the Careers!), President Snow is the guy played by Beat Takeshi, Effie is the bouncy girl from the training video, Clove is Mitsuko...the list goes on.
I know, people. I know Suzanne Collins said she hasn't read BR. I find this hard to believe, given the similarities, but to each her own. The above is simply something that really, really stuck out to me. The entire way through, I was finding similarities.
This isn't to say The Hunger Games doesn't follow its own course, and have its own storyline. It does. But think of the people who lash out at Cassandra Clare because of the similarities between her work and J.K. Rowling's. If you're one of the people who feels angry about that, consider that perhaps the people who read BR, then THG, and noticed the same glaring similarities as I might feel the same way. I am not a Harry Potter fan, thus I don't know what the comparisons are between the Mortal Instruments and the Harry Potter books - but I did read both BR and THG, and personally, I came across many similarities that I could not overlook.
Moving on, the romance. The romance in this book drove me insane. I don't understand what the constant need to have a love triangle is, but people who say, "There are no teams!" are just kidding themselves. If there were never meant to be teams, and if this book didn't want to have "just another love triangle" ... then it shouldn't have had "just another love triangle". That's the way it is, I'm afraid. I am absolutely and utterly sick of love triangles, and what was worse about this one was the second I read Peeta's name and his history with Katniss, I knew it was going to be all about Katniss loving Peeta and Gale trying to muscle in. It was predictable, and a Plot Tumor. Think of how amazing this book could have been had there been no romance, or if Katniss had actually been forced to kill Peeta. I literally waited, with baited breath, for Katniss to kill Peeta.
But she didn't. Convenience saved her.
The synopsis of this book suggests that Katniss's humanity will be questioned, and she will be forced to make agonizing decisions in the name of her survival, but never once does she kill for the sake of herself. Every kill she makes is either in mercy, accidental or in lieu of child murder (Marvel's death was carried out after he speared Rue; Katniss's killing him would then play out as comeuppance rather than Katniss killing for the sake of herself). Katniss's hands remain proverbially clean, the whole way through the Games.
This is simply not what I signed up for. It's unrealistic, to begin with. Biologically, the human body and mind is wired for survival at all costs. It's true. Think about it: when someone develops dementia, the mind literally breaks down to nothing. Why, then, does the body not simply give up? Why doesn't it shut down, because the mind no longer works? Survival. Survival is why. The main objective of life is to do exactly that: live it. Animals exhibit this to a tee. Smaller animals have faster heartbeats than larger animals, because the lower down they are in the food chain, the more ready they are always required to be to rely on flight to escape predators.
This is why Katniss's lily-white innocence remaining intact until the end irks me. She never has to make any difficult decisions. She is never forced to wrestle with her humanity, give up her principles, shame herself in front of the people who love her who must watch her participate. She is unabashedly perfect. Her inability to make friends doesn't even factor in; everyone immediately adores her regardless. People are willing to die for her, for heaven's sake. The Capitol practically eats the dirt she walks on. And this doesn't change over the course of the series.
I like flaws, man. What can I say? Perfection doesn't interest me. Innocence doesn't interest me, especially in a dystopian setting, where brutality is law-enforced. It just doesn't convince me, is all.
Having said all that, I simply cannot fault Collins' amazing ability to build suspense. I'll put a pin in the excruciatingly boring first 140 pages, and say that the portion of this book that featured the actual Games was just thrilling. The prose was sparse, with the feeling of unedited thought; I love that. A lot of people don't, but I do. Actually, come to think of it, Collins' writing was stellar overall. I'm a huge fan of first person present tense, especially during snappy and gripping action scenes, of which this book had many.
Honestly? These books just piss me off. I don't know what it is. The setting was smart and well-drawn, the anti-violence message was clear and good, and despite being a constant annoyance, Katniss was a fiercely independent and capable female character. This I greatly appreciate. It's not a bad book, by any means, but I'm just not a fan of it.
Aside: I have to laugh, kittens, because a lot of people need to crack open a history book before they make wild claims about the form of government going on here. Numero uno: the government system is not fascist. Please, don't say that it is. It just isn't. At all. It also isn't Marxist, either. I'm not a fan of Marx or his boyfriend Frederick, but don't shame the man and his gratuitous beard. It's more like a very obscure form of Stalinism (but without the weird foreign policy).
In fandoms like this, the naysayers are never without backlash. I've run into a fair few people who scream about how insane I am for not being in all-consuming love with this book (as if three stars is suddenly a bad rating!). Honestly, I don't really care if you loved the book. Sure, if you did, that's great. It's brilliant when people can enjoy the written word, and this book is not terrible, I did not hate it, and if I had never read any dystopian before it I would probably lobotomy-fangirl over it until I died. But right now it isn't for me.
Another aside: I ended up reading CF in full because a friend forced me to. I don't know what was different the second time around, but when I gave it another try I realized that book is outstanding. Definitely the best in the series. Far better than this one, and let's only refer to the last book from now on as Dat Flop. In fact, let's not refer to it at all. Let's pretend it never happened. I beg of you all.
I tried hard to jump on this bandwagon, but in all honesty, I just don't really have any passionate feelings for this series.
Look, I'm sorry. But I had to do it.
Why did I put reading this one off for so many years? I remember this being extremely popular but it seems like I was in a rut with my reading and figured I would pick them up eventually when I was back on track. Months turned into years and I finally saw the movies, which I suppose pushed them even further down my TBR and is a real shame because the movies didn't capture quite everything the book had to offer. (Not that I'm shaming the movies; I enjoyed them but you never can include everything the written narrative has to offer.)
That said, I found myself initially shocked at how much backstory we get into Katniss's family and District 12. I guess I had assumed from the movies that most of those details were just meant to be vague and mysterious, OOOOooooooo, but there is so much more to the story that I initially thought. While I found myself still indifferent toward Gale's character (at this point in the story), I found myself much more connected and sympathetic toward Peeta. So much was left out of his character development in the movies; here he appears even-tempered and a stable comfort to Katniss while in the movies I felt he was more whiny, needy, and clingy.
Everyone warned me that there was a big scene near the end that was highly disturbing and left out of the movie, so that was obviously in the back of my mind as I read, but I still don't think it prepared me for how unsettled it made me feel, and I wholly appreciated it. I do understand why they left out Cato's final scene from the films, but I also wish it had been included in some form as it's so vital to the overall narrative.
Guys, I 100% see why these have been so hyped over the past decade. While this is a theme that's been done many times before these books were written, Collins captured something really special and important with her particular novels and I'm really excited to carry on our buddy read later this month to find out what happens next!
"I don't know how to say it exactly. Only...I want to die as myself. I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not. I keep wishing I could think of a way to...to show the Capitol that they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games."
“You have a... remarkable memory."
"I remember everything about you. You're the one who wasn't paying attention.”
So, I really really liked this book!! Of course, I loved Peeta!How can I not? He is perfect!
But Katniss? Why?? She is so strong and bad-ass but she always misunderstands Peeta! It's so obvious that he loves her but she is in denial! She is so stupid!! And when she realizes his feelings, she just hurt him! Congrats!
4 stars because of Katniss' stupidity!
Let's start from the beginning!
What is Hunger Games?
Every year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 were selected from each of the twelve districts as tributes, who train for a week and then are sent into an arena to fight to the death.Only one tribute can win the games. This competition is showed to television to be seen by all citizens.
So, Katniss' little sister, Prim, is selected for the games, but Katniss took her place to save her.
"I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!"
The boy who was chosen to participate was Peeta Mellark, a boy who Katniss knew because she saved her from starvation and give her some bread as a result his mother beat him!
1) I loved Peeta! He protected her but I will admit she protected him as well! She risked her life to get the medicine needed to heal his leg. But how can she not see that he is madly in love with her? I loved it when he told her about her singing for the music class, that's when Peeta realized he was in love with her when he saw that the birds were listening like they did for her father.
“No, it happened. And right when your song ended, I knew - just like your mother - I was a goner," Peeta says.”
2)I think she has feelings for him deep down! Very deep.
“I don't want to lose the boy with the bread.”
Sometimes when she kissed Peeta she felt guilty because of Gale! Why????He is her best friend! At the beginning, she said that she never saw him that way and now what? She is confusing me.
Please, not love triangle again!!I liked Gale but no!
3)Curiously, I liked Haymitch! He won the Hunger Games of his time. He is also Katniss' and Peeta's mentor. It seems at first that he doesn't like Katniss very much but at the Hunger Games he helped her more than he helped Peeta.
“Here's some advice. Stay alive.”
4)I also liked Cinna, their stylist. He always supported her in his way.
5)Rue! She was the 12-year-old female tribute from District 11. I really liked that Katniss allied with Rue. They were amazing together. But Rue died.
I understand only one can win( our case two) but I felt so sad when she died. Not only her though. A lot innocent kids die because of the Capitol. It's not fair.
6)In the half of the games, it was announced that two tributes from the same district can win. So katniss and Peeta can be allies. But when all the other tributes died it was announced that the rule they said early has been canceled. I was so angry! They did it on purpose. Assholes!!!
7)When they announced it, Katniss aimed her bow at Peeta when she sees he has picked up a weapon, but he throw it into the lake. She is so stupid. He didn't want to fight her and she thought that he could kill her.
8)I was scared when Peeta and Katniss threaten to commit double suicide so there will be no winner! But it was a trick. Thankfully, that trick worked and both PEETA AND KATNISS WERE WINNERS!
9)And the ending! Peeta discovers that Katniss was mostly acting during the games about the feelings. He was so heartbroken! My baby!
“You here to finish me off, Sweetheart?”
P.S. I haven't seen the movie yet!
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I've said to a few people that if I wasn't married, I'd have to marry this book. :) I read the 400 page ARC in a less-than-24-hour time period (so quickly that it was never even on my "currently reading" shelf), which I've only done before with HP books, and I've just officially put the first book on my 2008 favorites shelf. I feel pretty safe in saying that if this isn't still my favorite book of the year when next January rolls around, that I'll eat a hat. As soon as I finished reading it, I turned around and read it a 2nd time, which I've never done before in my life. I loved all of Collins' GREGOR books, and think she's a wonderful writer, but she's ratcheted it up to another level with this one. Even though it's the first in a trilogy, this one definitely stands alone, and I'm not sure how she can keep it up for another 2 books, but I suppose it's possible (think: THE GIVER, although I loved GATHERING BLUE, and liked THE MESSENGER--HUNGER GAMES is much more brutal than THE GIVER, though). It's got some very meaty issues to chew on, not the least of which is reality TV taken to extremes. There's a chaste and unresolved romance (think: TWILIGHT, but I don't think I will make it past the first in that series--HUNGER GAMES has much more action, more of a plot, lots of well-developed secondary characters, as well as extremely likeable main characters. I will miss Katniss until I can read about her again.). What more could you possibly ask for out of a book? It doesn't actually come out until October 2008, but if you can get your hands on an ARC, definitely do! I think that the violence in this will be easier for kids to take, since they probably won't see it quite as clearly as an adult will. None of it is particularly graphic, but it is definitely brutal. This is on the edge of too dark for me, which is my favorite kind of book. There aren't many writers who can push it right to the edge for me without going over (Zusak comes to mind immediately), but Collins is definitely one of them. Another book that I loved, and think of to compare this to is HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, but that fell apart slightly at the end for me. HUNGER GAMES didn't lack anything at all for me. OK, I'll stop gushing. I may have to re-write this review when I get some perspective. (2012: Obviously, I never did rewrite it, and this is my most-"liked" review :)
My 10 1/2 yr old son asked to read this with me, so I read it for the 3rd time with him in Oct 2008. Still my definite favorite book of the year, but all the typos in the finished book were pretty disappointing. Still, it's my choice for just about any award out there, come January, including the JHUNT.
Update May 2009: I am dying because the CATCHING FIRE ARC has just been released, and people are saying it's at least as good at HG. I've had 2 teenaged boys at my library read this on my recommendation, and both of them came back asking me for more books like it (really there isn't anything). One of them has pre-ordered CATCHING FIRE on Amazon (and I worked in a fairly disadvantaged neighborhood in DC at the time, so that was not a usual occurrence).
May-June 2011: I'm reading this for the 4th time, with my younger son, who's finishing up 5th grade. Still as good as ever!! Can't wait for the movie!!
Update 2012: Between them, HG and CATCHING FIRE were the pinnacle of my 20-yr career as a YA librarian! I've seen the movie twice so far, and definitely liked it better the 2nd time, when it didn't have to try to be my favorite book. :)
Fantastically Written? Ooooh yeah! Compelling? Yup! Super Quick Read? Most definitely! Original? Um...well *shuffles feet, since I seem to be a rare non-five star-er* not original at all really....
Man, I wish someone on my friends list here has also read Battle Royale and this book! The Hunger Games WAS pretty fantastic, hence the four stars (though I would have given 3 1/2 if the choice was available.) I ate it up, shouting into other rooms and offices that I was going to be shoving the book into their hands as soon as I was done, but as it went on desha vu was a little too common for me. I know there are major story types out there, ones that are repeated over and over again. Shakespeare retold 200 different ways. The bible reinterpreted to 2,000,000 varieties of tales....but when it comes to YA dystopia, which is by far my favorite genre of any book, originality is one of my main ways I judge a book. FEED felt utterly original. The world of UGLIES felt new. LITTLE BROTHER was just plain amazing. If it's going to be about "the future" we don't know about, make it original. In my mind dystopia novels survive on "idea" more than "excecution" and while the execution of this was beautiful, the idea was hardly new.
While I have a really good feeling Collins never read, or maybe even heard of, Battle Royale, The Hunger Games was 90% the plot of Battle Royal, minus the guns, the extra blood, the ability to get to know all the other players. In Battle Royal (short explanation of BR plot: 40 students put on island forced to kill each other and winner is set for life and put on TV etc...), the main focus is a love story between two students trapped in the game, two students bonding together with no real urge to kill others...one of whom had a crush on the other forever and it is only revealed during the game. There are so many other similarities, from the ways the gamemakers manipulate, to the ways the media encourages, to one character having a fever and the other taking care of them with soup. There are even "career" battle royal players. In BR you see the emotions before and after someone is killed, their last thoughts, the feeling of the person who killed. It's actually really beautiful the way it is done, and so believable that put in an arena teens WOULD turn into savages. In The Hunger Games, yes the main characters were fantastic, and many of the lesser as well, but Foxface is only Foxface, and the Careers are never more than random 1-dimensional bad guys.
The Hunger Games was very Battle Royale, very The Long Walk (Richard Bachman book), and very much current reality shows. I am not saying it wasn't a GREAT read, I'm just saying it shouldn't shake the publishing earth the way I am pretty sure it is going to. I anticipate this is the next Twilight series people are going to gush over. In a few years we'll all be hosting Hunger Games final book parties. I'll be amongst the attendees I'm sure.
Also in terms of female main characters, Katiniss may surpass Bella in me wanting to shake sense into a character. Talk about a smart girl being utterly clueless!
Yes, it was great, but eh, maybe I'm just bitter because I think BR is the better book of the two and while Hunger Games will get tons of praise and likely a rather deserved award or two, BR will continue to be banned in many libraries. Amazing what subtracting guns can do to a story. Suddenly it doesn't feel as violent, but rather is more reminiscent of stories we heard growing up. The number of swords and arrow deaths in traditional fairytales is nothing to freak out about, but if bullets are flying, it will give "too many ideas" to teens and therefore must be dubbed an adult book.
I'm pretty sure if I hadn't read BR just a few months back this exeedingly long review would have been just as long only instead of a rant it would have just been one long squeeeeeal of delight over how much I loved the book.
Original Comment: Peer pressure, peer pressure, peer pressure. Geez guys! Alright, alright I'll read it!
Clearly Gregor was merely the prelude. Suzanne Collins, you’ve been holding out on us, missy. As an author we were accustomed to your fun adventures involving a boy, his sister, and a world beneath our world. I think it's fair to say that we weren’t really expecting something like The Hunger Games. At least I wasn’t. But reading it gave me a horribly familiar feeling. There is a certain strain of book that can hypnotize you into believing that you are in another time and place roughly 2.3 seconds after you put that book down. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer could convince me that there were simply not enough canned goods in my home. And The Hunger Games? Well as I walked down the street I was under the disctinc impression that there were hidden cameras everywhere, charting my progress home. Collins has written a book that is exciting, poignant, thoughtful, and breathtaking by turns. It ascends to the highest forms of the science fiction genre and will create all new fans for the writer. One of the best books of the 2008 year.
Life in District 12 isn’t easy for Katniss and her family. Ever since her father died the girl has spent her time saving her mother and little sister Prim from starvation by hunting on forbidden land. But worst of all is reaping day. Once a year the government chooses two children from each of the twelve districts to compete against one another in a live and televised reality show. Twenty-four kids and teens enter, and only one survives. When Prim's name is called, Katniss exchanges herself without hesitation to compete alongside the baker’s boy Peeta. To survive in this game you need to win the heart of your audience, and so District 12’s trainers come up with a plan. Why not make it as if Peeta and Katniss were in love with one another? But in a game where only one person can live, Katniss will have to use all her brains, wits, and instincts to determine who to trust and how to outwit the game's creators.
I described the plot of this book to my husband, particularly the part where Katniss and Peeta fake being in love to gain the audience’s approval and the very first thing he said was, “Oh! That’s the plot of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?" Then I mentioned that it took place in the future and that government leaders set up teenagers to fight one another to the death and he said, "Battle Royale”. So sure, there are parts of this plot that have been done before. You could say it's The Game meets Spartacus with some Survivor thrown in for spice. But that’s not what makes a book good or bad, is it? Some of the greatest works of literature out there, regardless of the readerships' age, comes about when an author takes overdone or familiar themes and then makes them entirely new through the brilliance of their own writing. Harry Potter wouldn’t have been any great shakes if it weren’t for Rowling’s storytelling. Similarly, Collins takes ideas that have certainly seen the light of day before and concocts an amazingly addictive text. About the time you get to the fifth chapter that ends with a sentence that forces you to read on, you’re scratching your head wondering how the heck she DOES that.
Your story often rests on the shoulders of the protagonist. Is this a believable character? Do you root for him or her? Because basically it is a very hard thing to create a “good” person on the page that your reader is going to fall in love with. Because we readers know that we are flawed, we are often inclined to side with the similarly flawed people we meet between a book’s covers. Katniss, on the other hand, is so good in so many ways. She sacrifices herself for her sister. She tries to save people in the game. But there’s almost a jock mentality to her too. Katniss can figure out the puzzles and problems in the game, but when it comes to emotional complexity she’s sometimes up a tree. Most remarkable to me was the fact that Katniss could walk around, oblivious to romance, and not bug me. Seriously, nothing gets under my skin faster than heroines who can’t see that their fellow fellas are jonesing for them. You just want to bonk the ladies upside the head with a brick or something. The different here is maybe the fact that since Katniss knows that Peeta has to play a part, she uses that excuse (however unconsciously) to justify his seeming affection for her. Thems smart writing.
Oh! And did I mention the dialogue at all? The humor? Yep, there’s humor. We’re talking about a story where adolescents hunger for blood, and Katniss is getting in lines about her trainers like, “And then, because it’s Effie and she’s apparently required by law to say something awful...” Good stuff. The words pop off the page. And then there’s the fact that we’re dealing with a dystopian novel where the author has somehow managed to create a believable future. No faux slang here, or casual references to extinct dolphins. There are some animals that were scientifically altered, but you can’t have a future without a couple cool details like that, right?
In general, this book throws a big fat wrench into the boy book/girl book view of child/teen literature. People love to characterize books by gender. It stars a boy? Boy book. A girl? Girl book. Now take a long lengthy look at the first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. It stars a girl... and a boy too. There’s a lot of hunting, fighting, and survival... and a lot of romance, kisses, and cool outfits. There’s strategy, the world’s most fabulous fashion designer, weapons and a girl who knows how to fight. This is not a book that quietly slots into our preconceived stereotypes. And you know what happens to books that span genders? They sell very well indeed. That is, if you can get both boys and girls to read them.
The age range? Well, for most of this story I would have said ten and up. I mean, yeah the basic premise is that a lot of teenagers go around killing one another, and sure there’s some romance to deal with, but none of it really seems inappropriate... until a final death scene appears in the book. I won’t give any details, but suffice it to say it is gruesome. There are definite horror elements to it as well, so with that in mind I am upping my recommendation to 12 and up. I’m sure that there are 10-year-olds out there who’ve seen much worse stuff on cable, just as there are 12-year-olds who’ll freak out ten pages in. Still, I’m more comfortable recommending it for the older kids rather than the younger. You'll see why.
It occurs to me that there has never been a quintessential futuristic gladiator book for kids. That is undoubtedly the roughest term you can give this book. Now I’m not a person who cries easily when she reads something, particularly something for kids. Yet as I was taking a train to Long Island I found myself tearing up over significant parts of this story. It’s good. And it’s so ridiculous that a work of science fiction like this could even be so good. You think of futuristic arena tales and your mind instantly sinks to the lowest common denominator. What Collins has done here is set up a series that will sink its teeth into readers. The future of this book will go one of two ways. Either it will remain an unappreciated cult classic for years to come or it will be fully appreciated right from the start and lauded. My money lies with the latter. A contender in its own right.
Ages 12 and up.