The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Book review: Hunger Games #1: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2009 [2008])

thehungergamesbookWINNING WILL MAKE YOU FAMOUS.
LOSING MEANS CERTAIN DEATH.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

THE FIRST BOOK IN THE GROUND-BREAKING HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY

Some time in the future in a post-war United States – now rebranded as Panem – the country has been divided into twelve “districts” with a central hub as a capital, the Capitol. The Capitol is the home of the rich and famous, and in the districs live the workers, the poor, starving backbone of society. As a reminder of the failed uprising (and destruction) of District 13, once a year, the twelve districs are required to produce a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the Hunger Games – a cruel TV event where you either kill or get killed. Last person standing wins.

To be chosen, all the kids of the right age are entered into a raffle. In District 12, the coal mining district, it’s Primrose Everdeen’s first ever go, and gosh darnit, doesn’t she have the darndest luck to get picked? Her 16-year-old sister, Katniss, immediately offers herself up in her sister’s stead. Katniss is a capable hunter who has been poaching for years, trying to keep her mother and little sister from starving.

Along with Katniss, the baker’s boy Peeta Mellark is chosen, and the two get carted off to the circus that is the Hunger Games. They’re coached by the drunkard Haymitch Abernathy, the only winner District 12 has ever had, styled by a man called Cinna, and PR trained by the airheaded Effie Trinket.

After Peeta let’s the whole nation know that he’s had a crush on Katniss for years, the two are presented as star-crossed lovers, and as such they go into the arena. How can they keep up the act when they’re meant to kill each other? And how can they possibly hope to survive the other 22 “Tributes” anyway?

When I saw the film, which was before reading the book, I felt as though there was something missing. By the time I had finished chapter one of the book, I thought “yes; yes, there was”. There is so much more you learn about Katniss in the book than you do in the film. The film never mentions why she has the one, blank facial expression – the book says it was something she learned to adopt because she let her emotions get the better of her. She was also a right little rebel as a child, singing rebel songs. I didn’t get that feeling from the film.

Rue, one of the other Tributes, was in the film, but her relationship with Katniss felt rushed, and it didn’t pack the same emotional punch as it should have done. The book, again, does a much better job. Perhaps if I re-watch the film, I’ll think better of it now that the holes have been filled in and I know how the story ends.

The book itself is a very quick read, especially since I found it very difficult to put down once I got going properly. It’s compelling. It’s a scary and completely insane world they live in, and yet … the mentality that started the Hunger Games and kept it going, and made it “fun TV” is not exactly a million miles from today’s day and age. That’s a disturbing thought. Who knows, if push came to shove, that it wouldn’t turn out to be true? Some would probably argue that we’re already in that society, it just takes slightly different forms.

Still, it’s a decent read. Katniss is a strong young lady who holds her own. She’s smart, and she’s completely clueless when it comes to boys. Peeta’s crush is a big surprise to her, and she can’t even figure out her best friend back home – Gale – is in a similar situation, which is obvious to everyone except her. As the book is aimed at young adults, I think it’s fabulous that teenagers can have a role-model who actually acts like a role-model, and doesn’t just sit around waiting to be rescued. Bravo, Suzanne Collins, I applaud you for that!

Now I’ll just sit back and wait for the next film to come along.

4 out of 5 snares.

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