Original review posted here: http://www.yourentertainmentcorner.com/2012/03/book-review-the-hunger-games-by-suzanne-collins/
I do not admit this easily but I actually shed a few tears while reading The Hunger Games. It was during a touching moment and I was so swept away by emotion that I couldn’t contain my tears. This book wraps you up and sweeps you away; you truly feel like you’re in the arena, fighting for your life with Katniss. She braves things you can only imagine in your wildest nightmares and still manages to maintain a sliver of hope. Katniss is what I like most about The Hunger Games (aside from the world building and story as a whole). She’s such a strong female protagonist and is definitely not your typical teenage girl. How many 17-year-olds do you know who can shoot a bow and arrow like an expert? Yeah, me neither. Katniss faces serious hardships—starvation, abandonment, death of a loved one—and seems to find a way to stay positive in order to do what she needs to do, which is simply survive.
Collins creates a world set in what could be our near future. It doesn’t feel too futuristic though, in Katniss’ part of the world. District 12 is the least favorable area I’d want to live in. Coal is the main resource and that’s all its good for—mining. Knowing that, you can understand how deplorable life is in a place where a simple mining accident can claim the life of many in mere minutes. I’m floored by the conditions people are forced to live in and endure on a daily basis. The oppression of the people in Katniss’ world isn’t clearly defined as we don’t get a glimpse of the other districts, but we know the Capitol is the premier area to live in for the rich and privileged. Some of it is explained away by a failed rebellion and its repercussions, but you still have to wonder how the world falls apart like it does for groups of people to be delegated to certain tasks because of their environment, and where being forced to hunt for food or starve is the norm.
And that’s only the beginning. The “games” (having children kill one another for sport) the Capitol holds to remind its citizens to stay in line are barbaric. There’s no true upside to winning, as only one of the 24 tributes—one male and female from each of the 12 districts—is left alive at the end. Of course, the whole point of the games is control; control the population with fear so they won’t rebel again. Or so President Snow and the citizens of the Capitol hope. It’s exciting to follow Katniss through her world and find the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There are problems in every sector surrounding the Capitol, and Katniss becomes the face of everyone’s hurt and despair.
Then there’s the dreaded love triangle which tends to be de rigueur for YA novels. I don’t think it suits this story. Katniss knows nothing about love except for the love she has for her parents and sister. She’s never dated, misses her father who was killed in a mining accident and has a somewhat absentee mother. She’s had to take on the maternal role in her home and it takes a toll on her. Being a teenage girl is difficult enough, yet Katniss does the bravest and craziest thing in order to keep her sister Prim, alive. That bond is what keeps Katniss going. Her only thoughts are of the people she needs to win the games for—Prim and her best friend, Gale. It’s too difficult to figure out who Katniss should love or want to love. I was blown away by Gale upon first meeting him because of the description Katniss gives of him—movie star looks, sweet, and a shoulder to lean on. The other side to the triangle, Peeta, seems like a good kid but we don’t know a lot about him. I can’t say I liked him much at first, but he grew on me. I think he has a lot of qualities Katniss wants in a companion, but she’s so inexperienced when it comes to relationships, who knows what qualities she’s looking for in a mate. I think it’s safe to say she needs Gale because she knows she can count on him. What else are best friends for? Katniss has way too much doubt where Peeta is concerned and her feelings toward him are a confused, jumbled mess. And there’s the small matter of not knowing Peeta’s motives, because he’s such a good liar.
With that said, Katniss doesn’t always make the best decisions when she follows her heart. I can’t hold it against her though, because she’s only doing what she knows how to do. Without guidance from her mother, she’s flailing about, trying to grasp onto anything of substance, and that tends to be the love of a guy. I think we see this quite a bit in YA fiction (as well as society) because too many teenagers are growing up with only one parent and the parent they have around is either working constantly or lost in their own world. Kids look for love where they can find it, and that leads to their peers. It may not be the Collins’ intent to paint Katniss as a typical lovesick teenager, but she makes it clear Katniss needs someone to love and to receive that love in return.
It’s a testament to Katniss’ strength how one can endure even the harshest conditions and make something of themselves. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who may be looking for something slightly off the beaten path in the way of YA novels. A strong heroine, extreme living conditions and unpredictable outcomes help The Hunger Games stand out from other dystopian novels of its kind. This is the first in a series of three and by far the best. I’ll leave it to you to decide what you think about the other two books in The Hunger Games saga.