Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

 If you look at my reading list for Bookin' It in 2012, you won't find Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games--and the other two novels in her trilogy--on there until August, but I put the book on reserve at our local public library, unsure when it would become available since it's very popular here right now, and was able to check it out last week.  I had only one week to read it, but I didn't need that long to read The Hunger Games because this is one book that is a very quick read. 

I would compare The Hunger Games to two of my all-time favorite books: Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and Margaret Atwood's The Handsmaid's Tale (1985).  All three works are dystopian novels: works that depict an oppressed and impoverished society sometime in the future in which the majority of inhabitants live completely at the mercy of the ruling minority by punishing outward rebellion and keeping the people under their thumb through starvation and strict rules.  

The Hunger Games is set in Panem, the ruins of North America.  Ruled by the iron hand of the Capitol, the twelve districts of Panem are reminded each year of their precarious positions by the Hunger Games, an annual event in which two children--a boy and a girl--from each district are sent to fight to the death, gladiator-style, before a television audience. It's kind of what it might have been like if the gladiator fights at the Roman Colosseum had been televised.

District Twelve is the focus of The Hunger Games, where the novel's protagonist and heroine, Katniss Everdeen, lives with her widowed mother and younger sister Prim, surviving primarily by Katniss's ability to hunt and gather. We see immediately the level of devotion and loyalty that Katniss possesses in her protection of her little sister.  When Prim's name is drawn to participate in the games, Katniss volunteers to take her place--an almost unheard of action at this time. Peeta Mellark, the son of a local baker who once threw burnt bread to Katniss when she and her family were near starvation, is also named to fight in the Hunger Games.  The novel then follows Katniss and Peeta's preparations for and participation in the games where the aim is to kill or be killed and where only the strongest and smartest will survive.  (However, the Capitol, of course, still has control over the outcome.)

To me, the beauty of The Hunger Games is the development of the characters, most notably Katniss, through whose eyes we see the harsh reality of living in a world at the mercy of an authoritarian government that punishes nonconformity and keeps its inhabitants in a state of oppression.  For Katniss, who has had to step up and fill her father's shoes following his death (caused indirectly by the Capitol), life is about providing for her family's basic needs; anything else--music, beauty, love--is extraneous and impractical. Ironically, it is when she leaves her home in District Twelve and enters an arena of the most inhuman(e) conditions that Katniss discovers the beauty of humanity.  Even while fighting to survive with limited food and water and any number of predators--human and animal--lying in wait to kill her, she takes the time to sing to a dying girl. After the girl's death, Katniss decorates the body with flowers, effectively rendering beautiful the ugliness of death, an act of rebellion that does not set well with the Capitol.

The literary critic in me could go on and on, but I won't because I want you to read the book for yourself!  It's a nail-biter and a tear-jerker, an escape from reality yet not so far-fetched as you might think. The intensity and suspense of the plot as well as the beauty of the characters and their individual struggles to survive and also maintain their identities makes The Hunger Games a book that I would highly recommend.  It's clean; it's well-written; it's thought-provoking (Are we very far from becoming a society like this one?).  Check it out at the library if you're cheap like me, borrow it from a friend, or snag a used copy from Amazon.  Just read it!  There's something for everyone in there.  (I will post on the other two books later.)

I'm also looking forward to seeing the movie set to release March 23, 2012.  Check out the trailer here.
Have you read The Hunger Games?  What are your thoughts?  What did you like/dislike about the book?

Blessings to you!


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  1. Loved the book, Keri. And I can see your literary bent coming out clearly in your book review :)

  2. I think you will change your mind about this series after the third book. I would wait until then to encourage people, especially young people, to read it. I would love to read your review of it all the same. Maybe you will have found some hope and light where I could not. Either way, after reading the third book, I could not see any Christ like values in the series, and therefore can not recommend it.

  3. Anonymous, I have not read any of the other books in the series yet, so I can't speak on them. However, in reading The Hunger Games, I did not find anything that would be of concern to women reading this blog. The characters are obviously spiritually lost, but that's because they live in a Godless world, a world that our descendants could very likely experience much sooner than later. I disagree that there aren't any Christ-like values in The Hunger Games. The mercy and compassion characters show even when faced with death is certainly reminiscent of Christ. Consider how Katniss sacrifices her own life for her sister and how Peeta repeatedly risks his life for Katniss.

    I will weigh in on each of the other two books in the series as I read them. Until then, I do feel that The Hunger Games is a book worth reading and discussing because of its literary depth and richness and its beautiful portrayal of characters who find and exhibit humanity to others in the most inhumane of situations. Certainly that is exemplary of Christ who showed kindness and mercy to those who least deserved it in the world's eyes.