Friday, August 20, 2010

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

book cover

Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Trade Paperback: 374 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
First Released: 2008

Source: Borrowed from a friend.

Back Cover Description:
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 regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place 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.

Review (Contains Minor Spoilers):
Hunger Games is a young adult science-fiction suspense novel. The premise--sending teens into a game that requires them to kill each other--also qualifies it as a horror novel, in my opinion.

The story was very exciting and fast-paced. For the first two-thirds of the story, there was barely a pause in the danger-laden action filled with unexpected twists. The world-building was very good and brought the story alive in my imagination. The characters were interesting, and there were many very nice characters risking themselves to help Katniss survive. I liked the potential of Katniss more than I actually liked her. She wanted to be nice, but she thought everyone was out for themselves so she rarely trusted others and her main goal was survival at whatever cost.

I read the book because my mentee wanted me to, because of the suspense, and because I thought Katniss would be pushed to the point of boldly defying the evil of the Hunger Games. But her main goal was to survive while avoiding conflict. Even her minor defiances stayed within the rules and she eagerly cooperated in trying to patch up any damage done by them to The Capital's power. She lied knowing it would be hurtful to someone she cared about and was willing to kill people she liked in order to survive. Only some fancy footwork on the part of the author kept Katniss from facing much moral dilemma about her actions and intentions.

By the time the Feast came about (near the end of the book), I had concluded that Katniss wouldn't stand up against the Hunger Games, no matter how cruel or how much she disliked them. By this point in the story, there were also a bunch of inconsistencies--including a critical one that meant the story wouldn't have played out the way it did. (Peeta said that his family only ate stale bread. Thus, Peeta's mother would never have told him to feed fresh, slightly-burned bread to the pigs--which formed the bond between Katniss and Peeta--when his family could have enjoyed the bread themselves.)

At this point, the pacing was also slower so I started to notice things like how fresh, unpreserved meat stayed good for days despite very hot days (it would have spoiled much sooner), how Katniss never thought to use the iodine for medicine when it might have made a big difference, how she hid some knives yet never thought to go back to get them when she needed them, and how she didn't even try to use her weapons when captured by an opponent intending to torture her to death.

In my opinion, it basically fell apart at the end, and I stopped caring about the story. Some readers might not catch the inconsistencies or care as long as there's great action, but I do.

There was no sex. I don't recall any bad language. The gore was left to the readers imagination. The novel was written in first person, present tense. Overall, it was a "clean" and exciting reading, but I was disappointed by the end.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

A Teen's Review:
My female 13-year-old friend loved it so much she could hardly put it down to do things like eat and sleep. She thought it was very exciting and didn't seem bothered by the violence or horror of the situation because she was sure the heroine would be fine. She's also the one who lent me the book.

Excerpt from Chapter One
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

I prop myself up on one elbow. There's enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother's body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. Prim's face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named. My mother was very beautiful once, too. Or so they tell me.

Sitting at Prim's knees, guarding her, is the world's ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he's a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.

Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

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