Now I've had some time to reflect, let's review this.The Hunger Games
has been on my radar for quite a while. It's only recently, however, as the hype has reached fever-pitch due to the upcoming film, that I thought I should hurry up and read it, if only to save myself from the inevitable spoilers from over-excited fans on Facebook or Tumblr.The Hunger Games
is set in a dystopian future, where what was once the continent of North America has been split into twelve distinct districts and the sinister, bizarre Capitol. This kingdom (of sorts) is known as Panem. Each year, in revenge and punishment for a rebellion in Panem's youth, the Capitol demands two tributes from each district, a boy and a girl aged between twelve and eighteen, which are chosen in a lottery draw known as the Reaping. These twenty-four tributes come to the Capitol, where they are sent into a large arena to fight each other to the death, to the last man standing. This is required viewing for every citizen of Panem.
As is evident from the premise of the novel (and the blurb), Katniss Everdeen is one of these tributes. The book follows her fight for survival and her realisation of how far the injustices of the Capitol really extend.
But how good is The Hunger Games
? Is it worth of all the hype?
First, let's start with the things I didn't like so much - AKA the reasons it lost out on that extra star.
The first thing that really bugged me about The Hunger Games
was the writing style. I'm not really sure how to explain what I didn't like about it, especially as I love first person present tense as a narrative mode. I think the thing that frustrated me the most about it was how slow-paced some of the sections of the novel were, when all I wanted was an adrenaline-soaked feast. This is particularly evident in the first chapter of the book. I understand that the whole point of that chapter was to establish the status quo, but I felt as though it could have been cut in half and not lost any of its effect. It is not just that first chapter, however. There are points throughout the novel where the pace suddenly drags, even though Katniss is fighting for her life and it should be fast-paced and heart-pumping. At certain points, I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, but instead I found my eyes glazing over.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the similarities of The Hunger Games
to the franchise of Battle Royale
. Having watched both films, read the novel and read the manga series, I could not help but notice the echoes in both the premise and the plot of The Hunger Games
, particularly in the final outcome of the two games. However, it is possible that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for The Hunger Games
completely independently of Battle Royale
, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt, though, being very familiar with the latter, it is hard for it not to affect my reading of The Hunger Games
There is also the inescapable predictability that comes with a premise like that of The Hunger Games
, though it's also an unfortunate side effect of the first person present tense Collins utilises. We know what the outcome will be from the first page. Katniss is going to win the Hunger Games. Katniss is going to survive.
However, this doesn't ruin the novel. We read The Hunger Games
for the story - how the plot will reach its inevitable conclusion - and for the few twists Collins throws in along the way.
Also, and this is a very tiny thing, I really was expecting to see more of the tribute boy with the crippled foot. It just seemed... important. And it wasn't.
However, these are minor things, really. There were a lot of things I did like about The Hunger Games
I really enjoyed the emphasis on survival that pervaded the story. Not just the running-away-from-kids-with-weapons survival, but the man vs nature survival that is evident even from the first page. Starvation. Dehydration. These are both very real in the world of the Hunger Games, and Katniss fights both. She's always thinking about where her next meal is coming from, and where she'll be able to find water. In a lesser book, these kinds of details might have been skipped over. But lack of food and water is even more deadly that a kid with a sword. And, to be honest, the idea of staring or dehydrating is, to me, much more terrifying than any kid with a weapon. They're slow, horrible deaths. And, besides, if someone comes at you with a weapon, at least you have the chance of fighting back.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the set up for the love triangle that will inevitably be important in the books to come. For once, I'm not sure which boy I want to root for. I'm not sure what boy will end up with Katniss in the end. This is something of a rarity. Often, it is clear from the start who the heroine (or hero) will end up choosing. Of course, this could all go pear-shaped in the next book and it all could suddenly become obvious, but I will hold out hope.
Katniss is an interesting character. She's feisty, sure. And strong, smart and resourceful enough to be a serious competitor in the Hunger Games. But she's also terribly cold, especially towards Peeta. This, I think, is a brave move by Suzanne Collins. Most heroines in teenage literature today are too perfect, too butter-wouldn't-melt. But Katniss is different. She has an unlikeably quality to her that, whilst not over-powering, definitely lurks under the surface. I admire Collins for doing this, particularly as the reader is stuck in Katniss's head without respite. It makes Katniss much more real. Humans aren't perfect.
What I really loved about The Hunger Games
was that, like most dystopian literature, it really made you think. Most people would like to believe that something like the events in the novel would never happen, that we would never force our children to kill each other in a big arena for entertainment. But what if it did
happen? But no one can see the future. The human race has many facets, not all of them desirable. Greed, for one. And hatred.
And, if it did happen, would we as human beings stand up to save our children? Would we stand by and let it happen? Would we just blindly follow authority as we usually do?
In conclusion, The Hunger Games
, in many ways, lived up to its hype. However, for me, it didn't quite cross that threshold into 'amazing'. It's still a great book and I'd recommend that everyone (though not younger readers) give it at least one shot. You don't have anything to lose. :)