[To see an updated review of when I re-read it in 2013 before the release of the films click here.]
Wow. I have no other words for this book.
How do you sum up something this intense? I wanted to cry within the first five chapters and was completely riveted and did not want to stop reading (and didn’t). The novel is a conglomeration of science fiction writers throughout history, from H.G. Wells, George Orwell, William Golding, and even Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and modern reality TV.
The Hunger Games is a dystopic novel about the US in the untold future where there were thirteen districts (thirteen colonies anyone?) and the capital. The capital won some sort of long-standing battle against the rebellion and completely obliterated one of the districts (13 – unlucky!) and indentured the other twelve. Each year the 12 districts have to send one female and one male competitor to the Hunger Games. These games, televised on national TV are a deathly battle where only one person can survive and they have to kill or be killed by the other 23 competitors. The quirky (seems to be my new word) characterization of the novel provides many brief respites from the seriousness of the task at hand and the oppressive government.
This years Hunger Games are different, District 12 has a volunteer and they NEVER have a volunteer. Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister’s name, Prim, is selected as the female tribute and as she is so young, Katniss protects her by volunteering. We follow Katniss’ journey from the coal mining District 12 through the capital and into the deathly Hunger Games. The variety of characters, both major and minor provide a brief glimpse into the economic disparity between districts, but also their individual cultures and values. It is perhaps the minor characters that provide the most insight into Ms. Collins ability to characterize people. From the wispy Rue (District 11 female tribute), the laughable Effie Trinkett, the drunken baffon Haymitch Abernathy, the serious and supportive Ciffin the minor characters each leave a mark as you’re reading the book and that’s one of the good signs of a novel (to me at least).
Even though it’s a dystopic novel, first and foremost it’s a coming of age novel. Written from Katniss’ perspective, throughout the novel we experience her fears and worries from feeding her family and contradicting the government by illegally hunting in the forest, to her hopes and fears of winning the hunger games, to her deep-set confusion caused by the potential suitors of Peeta Mellark and Gale. She is a strong female character and I’m looking forward to how she grows and matures over the next two novels in the series.
I will say it was a bit confusing at first as there is no introduction or background, but you do receive background information throughout the novel. The hinting into the past and the rebellion only serve to heighten the relationship built with Katniss and the other characters and will provide Ms. Collins quite a bit of room in the next two novels of the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I don’t want to give too much away because I think it’s well worth the read, although I will say you shouldn’t read anything about any of the books until you read the first one, then ONLY read the summary of the next one to get you excited.
That’s really about it, like I said I don’t want to give too much away because I think everyone should read it! This is the first book recommended through my Suggest a Book page (thanks Carlie!) and I’m definitely glad I put that page there now.