I read a lot about this book, not spoilers just good reviews, before I read it, and I was afraid it might not live up to all the hype. With only one caveat, it did live up to its reputation. If you haven’t heard anything about the book, I’ll give you a quick synopsis or introduction so that you can tell if the book is something you might like. Then, I’ll get to the “buyer beware” part.

TV’s Survivor meets Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery. If they didn’t make you read The Lottery in high school, you’ll just have to stick with the Survivor image. The Hunger Games are a yearly event in Panem in which two selected participants, a boy and a girl, from each of 12 districts, are forced to fight to the death in a prepared, and hostile, environment. No one gets voted off this “island”, however, and only one person can win, the last man or woman left alive.

SIxteen year old Katniss Everdeen doesn’t believe she could possibly be chosen out of the thousand or so names that will be in the lottery in her district. And she certainly doesn’t expect to be paired with a boy from her district who confuses her by acting as if he has a romantic interest in Katniss. Does he really? Or is it a trick to make her vulnerable to attack? Or can she and Peeta, the baker’s son, work together against the others? But if all the others die, then what will Katniss do about Peeta, or vice-versa?

It’s violent, and somewhat disturbing in its presentation of an evil dictatorial government and a culture both decadent and draconian in its exploitation of its citizens, but the book is not sexually explicit at all, and the nastiness is limited to what you would expect in such a hellish and volatile situation. The themes of trust and deception, community-building and destroying, cooperation and competition were well-developed and fascinating. I think older teens and adults would find lots to discuss in this dystopian novel.

Now for the caveat: I hate books (and TV shows, with the exception of LOST) that end with a cliffhanger and the promise of a sequel. The Hunger Games concludes with a resolution about who “wins” The Hunger Games, but it also ends with unresolved issues and with these words:

END OF BOOK ONE

If that’s going to bother you, you may want to wait for the publication of Catching Fire, due out in September, 2009, and read them both together. I sort of halfway wish I had waited, but then again I did enjoy The Hunger Games very much. And I’ll be watching LOST next Wednesday, even though the producers of that show have left me hanging and twisting in the wind four times now already (Seasons 1-4), and I’m expecting them to do it again in May.

I guess I’m just a sucker for a good story, even if it does make me wait for the next installment.

Other views and reviews:
The Reading Zone: “I read this novel in less than a day. The action is non-stop and heartpounding at many points in the story. Katniss is a likable character: she isn’t perfect, she isn’t a moral compass, and sometimes you even want to hate her. However, the situation she is thrust into is eerily similar to the modern-day obsession with reality TV and you can’t help but wonder if this the frightening direction into which we are headed.”

My Favorite Author has an interview with Suzanne Collins in which Ms. Collins cites the story of Theseus as one inspiration for The Hunger Games. I actually thought about Theseus being chosen to face the Minotaur as I read the first few chapters of The Hunger Games.

Quippe: “Collins gives Katniss a strong first person voice and seen through her eyes, the future is a dark and violent place. Despite the risk of descending into exposition, Collins strikes the balance between showing and telling with the result that her world building is vivid and credible, deftly setting out Katniss’s struggle to survive in the economically poor District 12 following the death of her father in a mining accident and her apothecary mother’s descent into depression.”

Shelf Elf: “She tells a tale that is tight and swift and yet still manages to remain complex in its themes. About halfway through, I crawled out of my couch-nest and wandered into the kitchen and said to my fella, ‘I can’t think of any way this book could possibly end that wouldn’t be completely devastating. This book rocks.’ (Back to couch).”

Random Wonder: “All I can say is that right now author Suzanne Collins had better be holed up in her house writing frantically. Not since Pottermania have I so desperately hungered for a sequel.”

29 responses

  1. Laza says:

    I loved this book so much. But you are totally right about the ending. I had no idea this was part of a series, so I was completely taken aback, and slightly annoyed, by the “End of Book One”. There is some fun to waiting and getting excited about a sequel, Harry Potter taught me that, but at least then I knew I was going to have to wait!

  2. That was a powerful review! I haven’t read such a persuasive one for a long time! I ordered a copy the moment I finished reading it. Waiting for a sequel is all part of the fun – it somehow makes it much better when it finally turns up. I hope I enjoy it as much as everyone else has.

  3. Michelle says:

    MUST READ THIS BOOK! Good reviews everywhere for this book, but I can’t find it (in the library or on the book swap site I use!)

  4. I’ve heard of this book, but I’m waiting for the second one to come out before I begin. I just love lost even though I am left hanging all the time.

  5. Tasses says:

    Thanks for the quote/link.

  6. Matt says:

    If you haven’t, you should definitely read Collins’ other series, The Underland Chronicles. The first one (of five) is called Gregor the Overlander and is about a boy from New York City who discovers a hidden world beneath the city. I HIGHLY recommend the entire series, and if you want more information you can read about it in my book blog, http://www.bibliovoresdilemma.blogspot.com!

  7. Sounds like a fascinating book. I think I’m one of those who will wait until the second one comes out. I hate been left to figure stuff out.

  8. Aubrey says:

    We loved this book over at MFA (My Favorite Author). We are looking forward to book 2 and a continuation of Katniss’s amazing story!

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  10. Thank you so much for recommending this book! I’ve just finished it, and loved every minute.

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  14. Wendy says:

    As one who has read an advance copy of Catching Fire, I’ll advise you that you may want to wait until the third book comes out because the second book has even more of a cliffhanger ending than the Hunger Games did.

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  21. readingfalcon says:

    This book has left me toltaly num. I am finding hard to see any good in the whole thing I probebly should have stopped reading it when (spoiler alert) Rue dies, I was kind of shaken by the whole thing and then with those horrid mut-whatevers and Cato. I mean this book is pretty sick and looks deep into humman nature, it reminds me alot of Edgar Allen Poe’s works. I like books that make feel and think but this, this has pushed me past that into shock, which I guess means it is a good book because not many books can shock me anymore. Ok I really hope there is a happy ending to this series because I am going to keep reading.

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    I have an 11-year-old who is a voracious book reader. I can’t keep up. I read this series because I was concerned about what she was reading. I was surprised by the books. As stated, they do a great job at developing the characters and keeping the reader surprised by the events. I did feel the need to discuss with her such topics as the value of life and decision consequences. While I think she was a little young to read these books, I am glad she choose these over other junk. I have pointed out the main characters love/protection of her sibling as a positive. The anger toward the mother and view that she is weak (in this book) is a negative. There is some softening in book 2, I only hope that book 3 provides a positive resolution.

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