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Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

December 16, 2009

146. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
The Hunger Games, Book 1

Read By: Carolyn McCormick
Length: 11h 10m (384 pages)

Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi, Young Adult

Started: 03 December 2009
Finished: 07 December 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’d been hearing about it for ages and finally gave in to peer pressure.

It’s kill-or-be-killed,
with strength and strategy your
only two allies.

Summary: Once a year, everyone must gather for the Reaping – a process by which one teenaged boy and one teenaged girl from each District are selected as Tributes to go to the Capitol and compete in the Hunger Games. The whole process is a reminder of the Capitol’s power, and a punishment of the Districts for an ancient rebellion – for the Hunger Games are not some friendly competition, but rather a battle to the death. Twenty-four Tributes go into the specially designed arena, where they must face not only the perils of wilderness survival, but also traps placed by the gamemakers to increase the entertainment of the viewing audience – not to mention the deadly attacks of their fellow Tributes.

When Katniss hears her younger sister’s name drawn at the Reaping, she panics. There’s no way Prim can possibly survive – and so Katniss volunteers to go in her place. However, District 12 – mainly made up of poor coal miners – hasn’t had a Hunger Games champion in years, and no one expects much out of Katniss or Peeta, a baker’s son who is the male Tribute. Katniss does have a slight advantage – she’s been illegally hunting to provide for her family for years – but in the kill-or-be-killed world of the Hunger Games, food may be the least of Katniss’s worries.

Review: To give a brief flavor of my opinion of this book, I’m actually going to give you my friend’s opinion first. I finished The Hunger Games, and immediately went raving about it to a friend who shares a similar taste in books. I managed to convince her to start it sooner rather than later, and a few hours after she started reading, the following IM conversation took place:

Her: “OMG THE HUNGER GAMES IS SO GOOD. It’s caps-lock good.”
Me: “Told you.”

And it is. It really is caps-lock good. It’s so good, I can’t believe that no one told about it before. Okay, fine, people have been saying how good it is for at least the past year, but I can’t believe no one has ever sat me down and said “No, really, you need to read this, and you need to read it now.” Dystopian novels are typically very hit-or-miss for me, but this one was a hit. A big one.

I’ll start with the positives. First, this book is insanely compelling. I listened to the bulk of it almost straight through, completely lost in the story and hating every interruption that made me take off my headphones. This book’s got tension and suspense dripping off its pages, and there was just no way I was going to go to bed before finding out what happened to Katniss. This book didn’t even have the normal problem of series books that try to create tension; normally I’m not terribly worried for the main characters’ lives, since I know there’s another book to come, but in this case, I was rarely 100% sure that Katniss was going to come out of the arena unscathed. The action is pretty much non-stop throughout the book, and even when there’s nothing actually happening, Katniss is always thinking, always planning, and it was always completely riveting. She’s a very well-developed and relatable character, and I found myself totally wrapped up with her fate (even if she could on occasion be a little bit thick-headed.)

Now, the negatives: … I can’t really find any. There’s a pretty strong element of deus ex machina throughout the story, but that’s sort of the point – the gamemakers can do whatever they like to the tributes in the arena. A lot of the technology isn’t explained, but since Katniss is a poor girl from one of the outer districts, she’d have no idea how any of it worked anyways. A lot of questions are left unanswered, and topics left unexplored, but not so that it makes the book feel incomplete… just so that I immediately want to dive into the sequel. The only thing I can possibly think to ding it for is the present-tense writing, which normally annoys me… but in this case, even that works to the story’s advantage, giving Katniss’s predicament a real sense of immediacy.

So, yeah. Caps-lock good. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Read it. If you have even the slightest inclination towards dystopian fiction, survival fiction, modern young adult literature, or really good stories in general, you should pick this one up sooner rather than later.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: – I wonder if Suzanne Collins is a Dawson’s Creek fan? Because a key scene in The Hunger Games felt *awfully* reminiscent of one of the best scenes in all of Dawson’s Creek… and used, word-for-word, the single best line of dialogue ever uttered on that show.

Series 7: The Contenders is a movie from 2001 that is essentially the same plot as The Hunger Games, although it’s adults instead of teenagers, and it’s not in a dystopian future… plus it came out *before* the vast reality TV boom of recent years. I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember it as being darkly funny, and worth watching, particularly for fans of the book who are interested in comparing.

Other Reviews: As Usual I Need More Bookshelves, At Home With Books, The Bluestocking Society, The Book Nest, Books and Movies, Dear Author, Devourer of Books, Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?, I’m Booking It!, In Search of Giants, The Infinite Shelf, My Friend Amy, Presenting Lenore, ReviewsbyLola’s Blog, Rhapsody In Books Weblog, YA Fabulous, YAnnabe
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

Cover Thoughts: Honestly, I can’t help but wonder if the cover is part of the reason it took me so long to get around to the book. After having read it, I now get the significance of the bird in the gold hoop with the arrow, but on the whole, the design still leaves me cold. It doesn’t tell me anything about the plot of the book, it doesn’t tell me much about the tone of the book, and the font choices and some of the design elements suggest that it’s more tech-y, space-ship-y sci-fi than is actually the case.

49 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2009 2:11 am

    You should read the sequel! But then you’ll end up waiting with bated breath at the last installment, like most of us, I guess.

    • December 17, 2009 1:15 pm

      Lightheaded – I’m already partway through the sequel, so yes, I imagine I’ll join the slavering hordes waiting for the last book. :)

  2. December 16, 2009 8:16 am

    My husband read this and Catching Fire back to back. As soon as he closed CF, he said, “Where’s the next one?” When I told him it hadn’t been written yet, he was very upset.

    • December 17, 2009 1:15 pm

      bermudaonion – There’s something to be said for only reading series once they’re done. I don’t think I could ever do it myself, but I can see the up-side.

  3. December 16, 2009 10:13 am

    Totally agree with your whole review, including the “why did I wait so long” part!

    • December 17, 2009 1:17 pm

      rhapsody – Seriously! The next time something like this comes around, I designate you as my official “hey no really go read this Right Now” slapper. :)

  4. December 16, 2009 1:13 pm

    I’m with you on the cover — I absolutely loved this book, but wouldn’t have ever picked it up without the urging of the entire book blog community! :) While I appreciate the significance of the cover art, it’s just not compelling. I liked Catching Fire‘s cover much better!

    • December 17, 2009 1:17 pm

      Meg – Neither of them really wow me, but at least Catching Fire is more colorful.

  5. December 16, 2009 5:28 pm

    I love the cover, but then I am drawn to covers that are more sci-fi, especially if they don’t have people on them.

    I agree that it is a fabulous book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the third one. I watched the video above and it’s been awhile since I read the book. Which line was it that was identical?

    • December 17, 2009 1:19 pm

      Alyce – I can go other way on people – sometimes they bug me, sometimes I think they give a much better feeling for what’s actually going on in the book.

      And the line is “I remember everything.” Or, in the book, I think it was technically “When it comes to you, I remember everything.” :)

      • December 17, 2009 1:59 pm

        I thought that was probably the line. :)

      • December 17, 2009 2:04 pm

        Awww, it’s such a good one, too. :)

  6. December 16, 2009 8:19 pm

    I’m one of the few that didn’t think it was caps lock good. I liked it, but the Hunger Games part of the book got a little tedious to me. Of course, that didn’t stop me from reading the sequel.

    • December 17, 2009 1:20 pm

      softdrink – There have definitely been books out there that everyone has been raving about, where I’ve been “…really? It was pretty good, I guess.” Sorry this one didn’t work out so well for you!

  7. December 16, 2009 9:22 pm

    I just finished reading the first two books (I reviewed it too!) – it makes me hate cliff hangers so much! I’m too impatient. Heard they were going to make a movie … what do you think about that? I’m wondering how they will make the audience understand the depth of the complications behind each of Katniss’ actions.

    • December 17, 2009 1:22 pm

      Sharry – I think it will make a very exciting movie, but I think you’re right that it will lose something by not being in Katniss’s head as much as the book… unless they have her do a lot of voice-over narration (which would get annoying really quickly), or have her talk to herself out loud (which would just be silly.)

  8. December 17, 2009 12:30 am

    Yippee! I love this one too. :)

  9. December 17, 2009 9:28 am

    I liked it a lot! Catching Fire wasn’t quite as good for me (second book syndrome), but it set up a lot of interesting things for the third! Cannot wait!

    • December 17, 2009 1:23 pm

      Jenny – Catching Fire is going a lot slower for me, although part of that is that I just haven’t had as much time to listen. I’m anxious to see how it wraps up, though!

  10. December 17, 2009 9:56 am

    I loved this book and Catching Fire. They’re not perfect books, but so totally engaging that you forget the minor flaws. :)


    • December 17, 2009 1:23 pm

      Anna – I think that’s an excellent way of putting it.

  11. jendevourerofbooks permalink
    December 17, 2009 1:56 pm

    Yay! Caps lock good indeed.

    • December 17, 2009 2:04 pm

      Jen – I need to make sure to tell my friend that she’s given me a new descriptor. :)

  12. trapunto permalink
    December 17, 2009 2:15 pm

    Another great recommendation! I kind of like the cover not giving too much away. I saw the typeface as early 20th century Soviet Social Realist, not techy.

    • December 26, 2009 4:36 pm

      trapunto – You’re much more close to the actual tone of the book, then.

  13. December 17, 2009 5:34 pm

    So glad to hear you loved this one! It was one of my favorite book this year, and although the sequel wasn’t as good for me, it’s a great follow up.

    • December 26, 2009 4:38 pm

      Kay – It’s definitely up there in the tops of 2009 for me as well.

  14. December 17, 2009 9:41 pm

    Um, I almost can’t believe you’ve just now read this – but then, kudos to you for having way less time to wait for the third book than the rest of us. =)

    Yeah, it’s pretty frakking amazing.

    • December 26, 2009 4:39 pm

      Elizabeth – Well, starting now, we’ve all got equal time to wait, I guess. :)

  15. December 17, 2009 11:38 pm

    Caps Lock good is a wonderful way to describe it!

    • December 26, 2009 4:40 pm

      Carrie – I can think of a number of things that are caps-lock good – it’s such a useful descriptor!

  16. December 18, 2009 1:52 am

    AAAHHHH!!!! I’m so stoked you loved it!!! I haven’t seen someone not enjoy this book! I hope you don’t wait long to read CATCHING FIRE. :D

    • December 26, 2009 4:40 pm

      Trish – Heh, I finished Catching Fire during my Christmas travels. Now to write that pesky review…

  17. December 19, 2009 6:44 am

    Caps-Lock Good? What a fantastic line. Love it.

    I loved this one and Catching Fire, such brilliant reads.

    As for the reading series all at once, I’m not sure, as much as we all like to hate cliffies and waiting. I think we all like the anticipation.

    The Harry Potter series wouldn’t have been the same with out the desperate need for the next one! This is the same. (Thankfully the wait is shorter though!)

    • December 26, 2009 4:41 pm

      Bart – It’s true, as much as we all complain about the wait, some things wouldn’t be as special without the anticipation. It really does work both ways.

  18. December 19, 2009 9:19 am

    Dawson’s Creek — such a great show.

    • December 26, 2009 4:42 pm

      charley – Hee, no it wasn’t. It was a terrible show…. but I love it anyways. :)

  19. December 19, 2009 8:53 pm

    I don’t usually read dystopian fiction, but, this (and CF) are on our shelves … not yet read by me, but my 13 yr old daughter read both and wrote reviews that I must post next week.

    “caps lock good” is quite an endorsement. :)

    • December 26, 2009 4:43 pm

      Dawn – I’m sure your daughter has already told you this, but you should give it a try. The writing is nothing special, but the characters and story are *fantastic*.

  20. liz (aka Conan) permalink
    December 24, 2009 7:10 pm

    So read ‘Catching Fire’ but be prepared to yell … as it ends with a cliff hanger and no #3 yet arrrrrgh. pace pace pace

    • December 26, 2009 4:44 pm

      liz – I’ve yet to write my review for CF, but… cliffhanger, yes, but not one that I didn’t see coming, so it wasn’t so bad. Hell of a last sentence, though!

  21. December 29, 2009 6:58 pm

    I put off reading this one for a while too. Part of is was the sci-fi description and part of it was the cover. It just never caught my attention. Once I finally got around to reading it I understood all the hype though!


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