YA Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


For once, I think the hype was up to par on this one. Wow, wow, wow! Can you imagine a government that forces children to fight to the death?

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

384 pages | Scholastic Press | 2008

While The Hunger Games is definitely not the first dystopian novel to be written, but I can probably argue that it was probably the first to define the genre in terms of expectations. Dytopian books seem to be all the rage now–all publishers have to do is put the name “dystopian” to a book and it’s a sure-fire way to get sales goings. Got a novel about a girl and her angsty teenage life? Add some caste systems. Dystopian. Have a monster terrorizing a city? Add a some women-hate. There you go–dystopian. But while I’m not a die-hard fan of this series, I have to say, I am impressed.

Not bad, Suzanne, not bad at all.

Katniss is a memorable protagonist with real values (protecting her family, self-respect) that aren’t often seen in YA books. She doesn’t fall apart at the sight of a hot guy, nor does she let fantasies of him consume her. She has a goal and she does all she can to accomplish it. Nothing gets in the way, which is realistic if you are fighting for your life.

While I do, however, have some lingering questions about the extent of this book’s believably, I am stunned by the questions of morality and humanity that Suzanne brings to the table. How far are you willing to go to protect the people you love? Far enough to sacrifice yourself to the Games? I think it was really beautiful to say that in a world where choices are limited, where control is absolute, that the one thing that they can’t take away is love. Feelings are intangible, and I liked the idea that, within those feelings lies a degree of choice itself.

The world-building was lacking, but I’ll give credit where credit is due. I liked the idea of a dystopian future where people are separated into defining areas of wealth and power. I liked the idea of a frivolous world where people obsess about the latest trends, especially when they are so contrary to the standards of living in the outlying Districts. I was both amazed and horrified with the idea of children being chosen, out of lottery, to fight to the death.

Four paws up for:

+A great, down-to-earth heroine you can cheer for
+A smart story with an inventive plot
+Good values, good morals
+Easy, smooth writing style (first person)
+Tons of action (points for survival-type)

One big paw down for:

-Highly unlikely circumstances

Recommended for:

~Anyone who loves dystopian, this is a must
~Not for young children, mild/inferred violence (on and off “screen”)
~Anyone who loves action

Editions:

Kindle Edition
Hardcover

The Paper Foxes Rating

The critical review can be found here. There are spoilers, so it has been password-protected. As always, keep your comments constructive. This is only the opinion of a single reader. Type in “spoiler” for access.

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