Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I am happy to say The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins lives up to all expectations. Several people told me that I was going to love this book, which is usually the kiss of death for any book. Not in this case! I was very careful not to read any reviews or synopses so as not to ruin the experience. I am so glad I did. Still, here I am writing a review, part of which is a synopsis. I will do my best to give you an overview without giving anything away. (yes, the book was that good) No spoilers, I promise.

The story takes place in the distant future in the ruins once known as North America, now known as the country of Panem, divided between the Capital and it's twelve Districts. As dictated by the Capital, each year, one boy and one girl from each district are forced to play in The Hunger Games. Only the winner will survive. Every moment is televised.

This book is, in a word, intense. Put Lord of the Flies, The Lottery, Survivor and Running Man in a blender, and you'll come up with The Hunger Games. The story is told from the perspective of our heroine. I am having a hard time coming up with a comparable female protagonist as powerful as Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is from the poorest neighborhood of the poorest District in Panem, and already knows a bit about survival. For one thing, she knows what it feels like to be hungry. For another, she knows how to hunt. She is brutal, cold, and cunning, yet I was still able to really like her and root for her. Sure, there are a few quirks in her personality that didn't sit well with me, but I'll give her some slack, she's only 16. Aside from hating her name, the girl is fierce.

The games, however, are downright brutal. Twenty-four children, ages 12 to 18 go into the arena, and I can promise you that they don't all survive. We don't necessarily get a good look at all of the deaths, but I have a vivid imagination, and Suzanne Collins is especially talented with the turn of a phrase. For this reason, I have to caution as to how young the Young Adult reader should be. I think that the lessons on government and communism are strong and could launch amazing conversations about governments throughout history and throughout the world, not to mention the social and political implications of televising the Hunger Games, turning it into some voyeuristic reality show.

The pacing of this book is supersonic. I had a really hard time putting it down, and when I did, I found myself thinking and wondering about the book, the location, the characters, the government, and, especially, the Game.

The Hunger Games has huge crossover potential -- not only to adult readers, but to boys as well. You know me, I am always on the lookout for Man-Lit, but having two sons of my own, I keep my eyes wide open for books that appeal to boys. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Katniss Everdeen will be the heroes on my boys' bookshelves.

Movie Potential? I can't wait to see who gets their hands on this series! This was one powerful book, but I can only imagine how much more intense the story will be when we can see, for example, the images of the shining Capital in comparison to Katniss's gray, coal-covered, District 12. Then again, I'm not sure if putting a fight-to-the-death game on the big screen will be able retain its Young Adult audience. I can only hope that they do The Hunger Games the same justice that Chris Columbus did Harry Potter. Something tells me we won't have to wait long to find out. UPDATE: Ok, the Hunger Games fans are on the ball! It didn't take long for them to tell me that Lions Gate has optioned the movie rights, and Suzanne Collins herself will be writing the screenplay. Cool. Thanks, Amy!

There you have it. The Hunger Games is one of the best books I've read this year, and THE favorite YA book this year, hands down.

Read the first chapter
Check out
Scholastic's Hunger Games page (AFTER you've read the book, unless you want to be spoiled...I'm only trying to help you here.)

The Sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is due out September 1, 2009. If you have not yet read The Hunger Games, DO NOT read the synopsis of Catching Fire. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
You can pre-order Catching Fire here:


DCMetroreader said...

Great review! I've heard terrific things about this book.

Catherine said...

Alison, Mendham added this book to its 8th grade Lang Arts curriculum for next year. I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, but I did get a copy of the first Susie Stackhouse novel for my LBI vacation next week.

Alison said...

Catherine, as a teacher, you have so many different places to go with this book! (Lucky students you have) I'm sure Scholastic has some great ideas on their site. (link above) Enjoy your vacation -- and all the reading!

Anonymous said...

Honestly the best book I've ever read- totally obsessed with everything to do with The Hunger Games.
Loved your review too(:

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