Name: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Date of Publication: 2008
Genre: Adventure, Dystopia, Science Fiction
With all of the excitement recently about the release of the third movie in The Hunger Games saga, I thought it was an apt time to re-read this trilogy in it’s entirety, kicking off with the first novel, The Hunger Games.
I have also reviewed the first movie of the series here.
The Hunger Games is set in a futuristic North America now known as Panem, where 12 districts are ruled by a totalitarian government in a city called the Capitol, following an earlier rebellion of the districts. Each year, to remind the districts of the rebellion, the Capitol forces them to send a boy and a girl to compete in The Hunger Games, a twisted annual reality show where all of the tributes have to fight to the death until there is one person left standing.
The main protagonist in the story is Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl from District Twelve who, as luck would have it, ends up volunteering to compete in The Hunger Games in her sister’s place.
We then follow her story as she prepares for and competes in The Hunger Games and we discover though she is from District Twelve, the poorest district where in previous years the tributes are easy pickings, she is definitely someone who can and will do anything to survive….
The Hunger Games is a book which I enjoyed hugely the first time I read it a few years ago and on revisiting it I can still say it is a brilliant book to read.
The book rattles along at a fantastic pace, with Collins beginning the novel in District Twelve, where the people are suffering abject poverty and living miserable and worthless lives. Then, once Katniss’s name is drawn the book sweeps to her arrival at the Capitol where things could not be more different and the characters we meet are almost universally greedy, vain and shallow. This striking contrast cannot help but draw you in to Katniss’s situation as she tries to adjust to the Capitol whilst at the same time preparing for the Hunger Games.
Katniss indeed is a very intriguing and complex character who on the one hand appears passive and even cold in places but on the other is following her own moral code to ensure she survives the Hunger Games to return home to District Twelve and to her mother and sister.
However, when the Hunger Games start it is here where the action and violence increase dramatically as all of the characters we meet start to be killed off in gruesome and violent scenes which do grip you and kept me up for far too late at night. These are also interspersed with the friendship developed between Katniss and a girl called Rue from District Eleven which comes to a tragic end and the complicated relationship she develops with the male tribute from her district, Peeta Mellark, which provide welcome breaks from the violence.
There are however some problems I did find with the novel. The plot is very simple to the point of being wafer-thin and with such a location as dramatically realized as Panem, you can’t help but think Collins could have done more with the basic material she gave herself. For example, the other eleven districts barely get a mention in the novel so it can seem a little inconsequential when these characters are killed off in The Hunger Games.
Also, the novel does include a love triangle between Katniss, the male tribute, Peeta Mellark and her friend and hunting partner Gale which is completely predictablec saps the novel and makes it seem like another teen franchise. Personally the friendship between Rue and Katniss I think would have been more unusual and interesting for the novel but is over all too briefly. Furthermore, the emphasis on action in the novel as opposed to emotion also produces similar thoughts for me that the novel is trapped by the teen novel cliche’s and highlights how much further Collins could have taken the idea had she focused on emotion a little more.
Though it does have some of the usual trappings of the teen genre, the Hunger Games is still a fantastic novel with fascinating characters and a dramatic, thought-provoking plot which will stick in your mind for a very long time.