Published: October 1, 2008 by Scholastic, Inc.
Reviewed by: Justin
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 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 will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Guest Review by Justin: The Hunger Games
The following review is written by a friend of mine who just recently picked up The Hunger Games for the first time. I was curious to get his input on the story considering this is not the typical book that he reads. I appreciate his honesty & value his opinions, which I feel have clearly been stated.
Let me preface my review by saying that I'm not a reader of this site, nor am I a regular reader of the YA genre exclusively. I generally don't have an interest in books that focus on the thoughts, romances, or adventures of teenagers. However, after several weeks (months?) of suggesting, Ginger convinced me to take a flyer on this book/series. My previous reads were The Passage by Justin Cronin, Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, I'll Mature When I'm Dead by Dave Barry, and Under the Dome by Stephen King, to give you an idea of where my reading interests lie.
In The Hunger Games, in a dystopian future, there are 12 districts that produce goods for The Capitol, which is the city that runs the whole show. Geographic references are left very vague. Many of the details aren't pertinent to this review, so we'll just get to the main points. Every year, two teenagers from each district are selected randomly to participate in The Hunger Games. They are placed in an undisclosed location known as The Arena. The location is different every year, and the arena is rigged with innumerable cameras (that I'm not sure how they can have so many on every inch of this place) as well as traps and other surprises to help the Gamemakers manipulate the Hunger Games as needed. The point of the games is to fight to the death, with the winner becoming a celebrity essentially for the rest of their lives. Many of the districts are poor, some so impoverished that many residents die of starvation. The games themselves are televised in a manner similar to EdTV, The Truman Show, Gamer, or Running Man...24/7.
To say the story is unoriginal is an understatement. Forced fights to the death has been done over and over in book and film format. One of Stephen King's earlier short stories The Long Walk, took place in a very similar future, although instead of fighting to the death, you simply walked for as long as you could, and if memory serves, it was teenagers forced to participate.
The story moves quickly. I find this type of writing style to be somewhat of a gimmick, however, it works. Dan Brown is probably the most popular author who uses this style of writing, but he's a much worse offender than Collins. The book isn't overly heavy on the teen angst and emotion. At least for the first half. The book is the first in a trilogy, and based on the structure of the first book, it seems like the author had the entire story mapped out and split at good intervals. When the book ends, it is a good stopping point, but you find yourself interested in what happens next. While there are a number of characters introduced, including the 24 contestants, the ones that are not significant to the story are either killed off quickly or described so briefly that you don't invest yourself in them. I find books that introduce you to a character and their back story, only to have them die 5 pages later incredibly annoying. In The Hunger Games, if you get invested in a character, they tend to stick around for a while, if not directly, then they are least mentioned repeatedly.
The author does not take much time describing much of anything. For someone new to this type of setting (outdoors, future, poor, dystopian), they might not be able to visualize the world very well. I understand why she might do this, as many readers just want the story to be told to them as quickly as possible, and they fill in the blanks themselves. I'm contrary to that position, but hey, it's my review. The main character in this book's name is Katniss. I find this to be an incredibly precocious name. After I found out that it's the name of a plant, I gave it a little bit of a pass, but it still doesn't sit well with me. Another portion of the book that didn't sit well with me is a scene in a cave, where two of the characters are hiding/recovering from injuries. I can tell you that I was once a 16 year old kid, and after a couple of days of healing from injuries, if a girl that I was into was sleeping next to me in a sleeping bag, there would either be some sex, attempted sex, or an awkward rejection. Sorry, but chivalry is dead in the woods when you might be facing a spear through the eye as soon as you walk out. I'm more interested (personal preference) in the inner thoughts and actions of "real people", even if they're maniacs.
After learning more about what this book was about, I become a little interested in it, but put off by the age of the characters. The writing style of the author is nothing to brag about, but when you're trying to sell millions of books, you have to keep it simple. The entire book tries to keep you "guessing" about the motives of the different characters, but it's all incredibly obvious and transparent, so there are no surprises. This is by no means a great book, but for pure reading escapism, it is worth your time. I don't have any interest in any of the main characters, but the story is good enough to take me to books 2 and 3.
(Justin's rating: 3/5)