The Hunger Games

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I read The Hunger Games before I started blogging, which means, before I heard the hype. I’m sure that had an effect of my opinion of it. One friend recommended it to me, but there was no ground swell of obsession at that point, so I was surprised by just about everything in the book and I loved it. I recently reread it, to refresh my memory before the movie’s release, and I was happy to find I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
Here’s the basic premise, Katniss Everdeen lives in a dystopian society called Panem. It’s split into 12 districts, each one of which has its own unique aspects (fishing community, coal mining, etc.). Each year a lottery is held and one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to compete in the annual Hunger Games. The 24 “tributes” must then fight to the death on live television, while the rest of the world watches. When her young sister Prim is chosen as a tribute, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

The plot includes elements of everything from Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” to gladiator fighting, but it still manages to feel completely unique. The characters are unforgettable. I usually have trouble remember who is who when I pick up a second book in a series months after reading the first. That wasn’t the case here. Each person stood out distinctly in my mind; Haymitch, the drunken former tribute, Cinna, the quiet designer, etc.

I particularly loved Katniss as a character. She’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed the book so much. There are so many characters that give us great examples of the emotional struggles that go hand-in-hand with extreme trials, but she is not one of these. She is hard and distant. She has been made this way because of the role she was thrust into. When her father died, her mother shut down and Katniss either had to find a way to provide for her mother and sister or she had to watch them die. Her strength and logically way of thinking is something much more relatable to me. She is not soft and emotional and there’s no reason she would be in this society. It feels so much more realistic.

It was always a bit frustrating to me that people made a big deal of the so-called love triangle in the series. To me, that was always a tiny subplot, not a focal point. Gale and Peeta are both interesting characters, but the story is one of survival, not which one to she has a crush on at the moment.

For me, Hunger Games isn’t about love triangles or even dystopian societies. Those are all aspects of the story, but the heart of it is the struggle of one young woman. Obviously her struggle to survive in District 12 and in the games, but it’s also about her struggle to become an adult at a young age, to deal with an unreasonable amount of responsibility, to reconcile her instinct for survival with her emotions, and her desire to make a better life for herself and her family. The book conveys this wonderfully and makes it impossible for me to put it down.
p.s. I saw the movie this weekend and I loved it. Of course there are going to be things to criticize and I didn't love all of the casting, but overall I thought they did a wonderful job. I also liked seeing some of the things that were going on outside of the arena, with Seneca and in District 11 and 12. I thought that added a great element to the story. So if you are interested in it, definitely go see it!

Image from here


Jillian said...

I think the reason I really enjoyed this book and made it stand out from the rest of the YA dystopian nowadays, is the fact that they didn't make the love story and the love triangle the main point, like you said! It was just a sub-plot; a good one at that, but still a sub-plot.

I love Katniss as well. Though I will never understand how she turned out in the end, I still admire her as a character.

I'm glad you liked the movie! I did as well.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I haven't read the books, so I'm not sure I'll see this one, but all the college students working with us loved it and can't stop talking about it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah we were way ahead of the curve as well. My rep from Scholastic gave me the audio right after it was published, and the kids and I listened to it in peace, before all the hype. We were pleased with the really translated well from the book. I would bet money the kids will want to see it again in the theaters.

nomadreader said...

I remember reading The Hunger Games during my first read-a-thon, and right after Catching Fire had come out. I loved reading it in one sitting, but it faded a bit for me after I read it. I adored Catching Fire however and cannot wait for that movie.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jillian - Yes! The "love triangle" was so unimportant to me when I was reading them. I'm glad you liked the movie too!

Diane - Definitely read the books first if they sound good to you!

Sandy - It's so nice to be able to read something before the hype. Your reaction is so much truer without all the preconceived notions.

nomadreader - Catching Fire was my favorite as well! I reread Hunger Games because I read it so fast a few years ago, I forgot many things about the plot.

Jenners said...

I'm planning to go tomorrow! I'm so excited! And I agree with you that the whole Peeta/Gale thing wasn't a big deal. Frankly, I never thought Gale was even in the running.

Care said...

Awesome review! I liked your reactions without hype and then reread. I read this after seeing so much Team-WhicheverBOY and then wondered,huh? cuz I didn't get that aspect from it as much either. I like that you bring that up.
I was going to try and sneak away to the movie today and then.. I FORGOT! My crazy days... Anyway, just realized that today was supposed to be a poetry day and my week is starting to pick up busy and...
sorry, I'm whining. Will be ready to discuss and ask a few questions about Clouds this weekend. :)

Anonymous said...

What impressed me most about the "love" story was that finding love and being in love didn't define Katniss. She was too busy worrying about feeding her family then staying alive to think about boys. In short, she is an independent female that doesn't let herself be defined by a male. That is a refreshing change from so much literature, and I'm not singling out YA here. In fact, the series starts to struggle in the third book when she puts so much thought into Peeta, Gale and her love life. In my opinion.

I haven't read the book in over a year and I only read it once (not obsessed) but the adaptation seemed very faithful to the book and captured the feel of the world very well. As far as book-movie adaptations, it's one of the better ones I've seen.

Melissa @ Swamp of Boredom

Jeanne said...

I read this a while ago, too, and then went to see the movie late last night because we hadn't been able to work it into our schedule before that. I was afraid I'd be sleepy, because I've been exhausted, but it was so exciting I didn't even feel the tiredness until we got out at midnight.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - Right! I hope you love it.

Care - I hope you get to see it soon. It's definitely worth seeing on the big screen. Can't wait to discuss Cloud this weekend!

swapofboredom - Exactly, when someone is in a survival situation like that, they aren't preening in the mirror to make sure their hair is perfect for a boy. It was refreshing and more realistic. I love that she starts to play the romance angle only when she realizes it might help her survive.

Jeanne - I felt the same way! I've been fighting a bad cold for a week, but the movie was so intense I had no trouble staying awake.

Mumsy said...

Actually, I found the love aspect of this rather poignant; perhaps because I have parented teenage children, including some not my own. I liked how Collins was able to bring out Katniss's woundedness; life has been so harsh to her that she simply doesn't recognize the gift of love when it is handed to her. To me it seemed that Katniss has systematically dismantled her ability to feel - because feeling is so painful - and the only feeling she has retained in its full power causes her to make a choice that will ultimately prove both deadly and life-affirming. Katniss is a tough and strong heroine (thank God she is not another Bella Swan), but it's worth noting that her emotional life is practically moribund.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mumsy - That's a great point. I love that Katniss is so stoic, I think she's had to make herself that way. It is interesting to think that love is such a foreign concept to her.

Jenny said...

I agree with Mumsy and loved that aspect of Katniss's character in the first book. That was a big reason the subsequent books disappointed me -- I felt like Suzanne Collins had set up this interesting emotional dynamic, but then failed to pay it out.

BookQuoter said...

You have put all my thoughts on your post, including the fact that you read it two years ago and you reread it again before the movie, which I did also. Incredible!
I just saw the movie... the costume on fire was awesome and didn't disappoint my vision of it!!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenny - I think the reason I continued to like the series so much is because it explored the political side of things more than the romantic relationship. It focused on the corrupt government and the people who wanted to stand against it. I found it so interesting to look at that from the perspective of a teenage girl.

BookQuoter - Yay! I thought that costume was really amazing too. I want to watch the movie again because I feel like there were so many details to take in, I know I missed things.

mari said...

Melissa, I always resist reading something that is really, almost TOO popular, and so I put this book near the bottom of my list. But your review's really interesting and now I think I'll move it up.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

mari - I read the books before I heard anything about it and I think that was a big part of why I loved them. I had no expectations. Don't go into it thinking they will be the best books ever, because they'll just disappoint you.