Monday, March 14, 2011

The Hunger Games - Book Review

Golden Lines:

"Why don't they just kill him?" I asked Peeta.
"You know why," he says, and pulls me closer to him.
And I do.  No viewer could turn away from the show now.  From the Gamemakers' point of view, this is the final word in entertainment.


Katnis lives in District 12 (The Seam) of a place called Panem, what's left of North America, with her little sister Prim (12 years old) and her distraught mother.  Because of her mother's deep depression brought on by the death of her father in a coal mine explosion, Katnis is responsible for their survival.  With her friend Gale she must hunt, forage, trade, and use her wits so that they don't starve to death.  At the annual Reaping ceremony mandated by The Treaty of Treason where one boy and one girl are chosen from each district to compete in The Hunger Games, the unthinkable happens and all of Katnis' survival skills are put to the ultimate test.  Only one of the 24 chosen will survive the games.

My Initial Response:

I read this story in only a few hours.  It's that catchy...I've been wanting to read more YA books...I taught a YA Lit. class several years ago at the university where I finished my Ph.D.  I was an avid reader of YA when I was a YA :) and then caught back up the semesters I taught the YA class. 
The Hunger Games  reminded me very much of The Giver by Lois Lowery. The storyline is complicated and things don't happen just the way you expect them to, but the storyline is completely believable, which is actually kinda scary.  The way the author sets up the emergence of Pandem, the rebellion of the districts, the punishment of the districts and the yearly reminder that Big Brother is in charge all make perfect sense.  As much as I dislike politics, this story reinforces the necessity of being an involved and informed citizen.

What I Liked:

  • Katnis - what a protagonist...once she realizes that she cannot depend on her mother to take care of her and Prim, she doesn't sit around whining about it (I'm not big on whiney characters).  She uses her strengths, the skills she's been taught all her life and refines those strengths into the survival skills necessary to keep her family fed.  Katnis is not perfect and she knows it; she doesn't trust many but finds ways to capitalize on opportunities where her strengths are complimented and/or gaps are filled...again her only agenda being to keep her family alive.

  • The mockingjays and especially their connection with the character Dru...obviously since the last book in this trilogy is called Mockingjay, I know that these little birds will play an even more significant role for Katnis...I'm assuming the mockingjay pin that Madge gives Katnis before she has to leave for the games also foreshadows some hidden secrets pertaining to the mockingjays.  Just guesses but there were more than enough symbolic teasers to make me want to read the next installment.

  • Cinna, Haysmitch and even Effie and other substantial characters who worked behind the scenes and within the system to buck The Capitol's horrific treatment of the people within the Districts and particularly their children who are chosen to compete within The Hunger Games.  They realize that to openly revolt will simply result in a quick painful death for they use their wits to help each other and especially the children they are responsible for to hopefully keep them alive and maybe even stronger for surviving their experiences.  There were some parts of The Hunger Games that also reminded me of Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery because of these characters and their refusal to conform to the barbaric traditions of The Capitol.
What I Didn't Like:

  • The werewolf type animals that show up close to the end are almost a little over the top...the final death is the worst...and while I can see the death itself and even the way death finally comes to this character, I though it was far fetched as to WHO the death finally came from (very difficult to discuss this without spoilers)...and I don't mean the person who put this character out of his/her misery.

  • Peeta, the baker's son - I feel so bad for disliking him...and I don't know if I dislike him...he's just soft...I liked him a lot when he figured out a way to hide himself after being injured...taking advantage of his strengths no matter how silly they seem and using them to survive.  I think all his lovey dovey stuff bothered me the most.  He almost allowed his feelings to get in the way of not only his survival, but Katnis's as matter how dangerous, she had to go get the final backpack...he caused her extra danger just by being silly.

  • Once Katnis leaves for the games we have no more knowledge of what is going on at home.  I thought this was strange since the author sets up life in District 12 so specifically in the beginning.  I would have liked to have had a glimpse at least to see whether or not Katnis' mother was living up to Katnis' challenge, what Gale was thinking as he watched the games broadcast on widescreen, how Prim responded  to her sister's absence etc.  I do realize that some of this info may have been left out because of things I don't know that are yet to come.


Even if you think you're not "into" YA I would encourage you to give this one a try...these characters, even though they're YA characters, have had to grow up fast due to their circumstances.  The challenges they face are very complicated adult challenges and there is not much here that is high schoolish or issues that as "grown-ups" we don't understand.  Politics is also something that you can't miss in this a dystopian novel, this may be one of the most believable ones I've ever read.


  1. I like your book review format!

    Ok, when do you read all these books? I began The Confession by John Grisham (you probably consider that twaddle! Ha!), but I stayed up too late, and then was too disturbed to sleep. I am sure that I could not read some of the books you review. I can't sleep after reading anything remotely uncomfortable! That's why I stick to Karen Kingsbury! Ha!

    I think I will start Little Women now!


  2. I stay up way too late a lot of the time :( And I bet my laundry pile is higher than yours even though you have 2 more kids than I do ;) I can get swept away by a book way too easily...which is probably why I ended up being an English teacher :)

    After you read Little Women you should take a trip to Boston and visit Concord and Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived. It's a wonderful experience!!

  3. Thanks for a great review. I've been hearing so much about the Hunger Games. The review reminds me of Lord of the Flies. Is it similar to that?

  4. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't read Lord of the Flies :( My older daughters have both been assigned it in school but I never was. You've piqued my curiosity though...may just have to give it a read and see about those comparisons :)

  5. Your review is the first that made me even think about reading this. Something about this series just doesn't work for me. I still don't know if I'll read it but I'll at least think about it now.

    Like the new format, hope it's working for you.

    I read Lord of the Flies in school and well, it's not one of my favorites. Though I do always say if it had been a group of girls they would have made curtains out of leaves and ostracized Piggy until.... well, I don't want to give anything away.

  6. LOL! Thanks, Martha! You've also pushed me into digging through my firstborn's shelves and finding Lord of the Flies...if I remember correctly, it's a pretty slim book?

  7. I'm not really into YA but this is something I'd consider reading.

  8. I had fun reading the first and second book but I really don't think they are all that original. I kept thinking of Logan's Run or The Running Man while reading them. BUT, entertaining they were and provided me with a nice afternoon of reading.

    I did not like the 3rd one at all, though. I was really disappointed with it.

  9. Brenna, YA is not my first choice either...for myself, but I like to read some of the things my daughters are reading so we can have those impromtu book discussions whenever possible :)

    Ti, I will be so frustrated if I read all three of these books and they don't end well :(

  10. Great review! I loved this series, but it definitely had flaws. That scene with those mutant creatures really threw me off (I'm still not totally sure what happened!).

    While there are some similarities to Lord of the Flies, the circumstances that put them in survival mode are very different. With LofF, they're wrecked on an island and they're just regular kids trying to survive. In HG, the entire point is for them to fight to the death.

    (And welcome to the Back to the Classics challenge! Can't wait to read what you think of your selected classics.)

  11. Melissa, I was glad Collins didn't make anymore of the creatures than she did...that development made no sense at all...there just wasn't a connection for me anywhere...
    My oldest said she loved the LotF but we cannot locate her copy...guess we'll be purchasing another ;)
    I'm excited about being able to participate in the Back to the Classics challenge :):)

  12. I'm glad you liked this book! But, I have to say, Peeta is one of my favorite characters. Maybe you'll like him more when you read the other books in the series. I can't wait to see your reviews on those!

  13. Kayla, I am looking forward to getting to know all of the characters better...especially Prim...I envision her becoming a strong character like Katniss :)

  14. You will like Peeta more as you read the other two books. This series is a real treat for young adult readers to deal with more in depth topics and situations. My 13 year old daughters read all three within a week. This series overtook Twilight in every way for them. I just finished my PhD in educational psychology and have just discovered your blog through the coupon goddess. Literature was my minor and if I had the strength I would go back again but just to burned out right now (and probably forever). I will just have to settle for being an avid reader of all kinds of books.

  15. Pam, I think burnout is a pre-requisite for a PhD ;) I am sooo enjoying my time spent reading books from all genres just bc I want to...rather than reading stuff I've been assigned and/or content the English Dept. deems worthy of my time :/
    I've had several people tell me that Peeta will grow on we'll see ;)

    Glad to get to know you!!

  16. I think that you will absolutely love the ending of the whole series. I read them all and you can tell it's a good book if after 3 months you are still thinking about it. Normally I read 2-3 books a week, always young adult because I'm 13. Another great series for you to read is the Maximum Ride series By James Patterson. It's YA, but they're a great read. I think you'll like them a lot. Congrats on the PhD!!! I know how hard it is to get one, my Mom just got hers after 8 years and is soooooo relieved.

  17. Ariel, a friend who teaches with me said that he really liked them but was exhausted when he finished them ;) He also encouraged me to finish the series.

    I've heard of the Maximum Ride series and I am a fan of James Patterson...may have to check it out :)

    Thanks for the Congrats! It took me 8 years to get my PhD as well...WHEW! Tell your mom I said CONGRATULATIONS!!

  18. I am pretty sure you will read the rest of this is hard not to...and I'm curious about what you'll think. Did you see they are making a movie of this now? The big question is who should play Katniss.

  19. Jenners, The other two books are on their way from amazon as I type...will be here Friday :) I didn't know they were making a movie, but it doesn't surprise me...I hope they do the right thing with Katniss...I almost think it's better when they cast an unknown actress in a role like this one.
    I'm weird about movies from books :/

  20. I really liked this book, and like you I thought Peeta was a bit annoying. Someone had to always save him! Ugh! :) I'm interested to see the movie when it comes out!

  21. Coffee, thank goodness ;) I was beginning to think I was being a meanie about Peeta. Our books should be here today so I'm hoping to finish the series this weekend :)