Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hi everyone! It’s so nice to see you all again! For today’s review, it will just be me writing. I have literally been DYING to do this review for a long time! And now that I am sitting here with the keyboard a few millimetres away from my fingertips, I am finding it so hard to put words on this page. Don’t get me wrong, there is soooooooo much to discuss about this novel. Maybe even too much to just write it in this review. It’s just that this story is so fantastic and developed, and has so many different elements to it that I don’t know how to organise my thoughts, I think I might just write this review in sections, to make it easier for you to understand!
And by the way, since the Easter holidays are coming up Alex and I won’t be doing reviews during this time as we will be at our dad’s house. The blog posts will resume on the 29th of April. Okay, let’s get started!
Panem is a dystopian society, and is also all that remains of North America. After a series of fires, storms, droughts, tsunamis and even a war emerges Panem, an empire divided into districts at the mercy of the Capitol.
The people do not get a say and an overruling authority is instead in charge. Life is miserable for the average citizen, and the world is poor and unkind. The citizens of the districts are unhappy and often die of starvation. They are denied basic human rights and live in poverty. As every year arrives, a new season of the reality TV show ‘The Hunger Games’ is produced. Children are ripped from their families and their lives to fight to the death for the amusement of the Capitol. This event is the Capitol’s way of showing that they are the boss, forcing others to live in a totalitarian society.
The Capitol is basically the place that is the ultimate controller of all the other districts. It is home to President Coriolanus Snow, the head of the government of Panem.
Everyone who lives in the Capitol is well off, and mocks the poorer people of the districts. They do not have to participate in The Hunger Games, and instead are the spectators. They watch the different district’s children being murdered for their own sick amusement.
“Removed from the deprivation and oppression of the districts, the pampered and hedonistic civilians are generally preoccupied with extravagant fashion, parties, and mass entertainment like The Hunger Games.” Wikipedia
There are 12 districts within Panem, and the Capitol is in charge. Each district serves a different purpose and it essential to the functioning of the Capitol. Every district has its own personal identity, specialising in a skill or industry. If one district were to go out of business, this could have a dramatic effect on the wealth of the Capitol.
A Bit of History:
Now you may be thinking, why is this world so bad? Why haven’t the people who run this place been rebelled against, or eliminated???
74 years before this novel takes place, there was a civil war, a rebellion against the Capitol lead by District 13. District 13 manufactured nuclear weapons, but was blown to pieces by the Capitol. Now, there is no possibility of a rebellion. Each district is surrounded by electrical fences, and the ‘Peacekeepers’ ensure law and order in each and every district.
And this is how this world came to be. Now you know all the basics. All the information. It is now time to introduce you to Katniss Everdeen.
For those of you that have read The Hunger Games, you will instantly recognise this name and associate it with a beautiful and brave 16 year-old-girl. And for those of you that have not read The Hunger Games, I’m sure that you have heard this name before and that it rings a bell. I mean her name is nearly just as famous as Harry Potter’s (maybe not quite, but pretty damn famous!!!!)
Katniss Everdeen is a 16-year old girl with dark hair and dark eyes. She lives with her younger sister, Primrose Everdeen and her mother in the Seam, District 12. District 12 specialises in coal mining, and this was her father’s job.
Katniss is a natural fighter, hunter, gatherer and forager. She works very hard to support her family and feed them. Katniss is also a rebel; she will not let herself be swayed by the propaganda of the Capitol. Katniss has a bow that her father had made when he was still alive, she hides it in the forest near where she lives and she hunts animals and gathers fruits and vegetables. Katniss will do anything humanly possible to protect her family as she is so strong, both physically and mentally.
This year it is the 74th annual Hunger Games. When Primrose Everdeen’s name is called by Effie Trinket (District 12’s Capitol representative) everyone goes silent. Prim is at the minimum age of 12, and is among the youngest people in the running for District 12. When Katniss realises that her little sister has been called, she immediately volunteers as tribute. This means that she will go to The Hunger Games in the place of Primrose. The reason why Katniss does this for Prim, is out of love. They have such a strong connection and Katniss is prepared to give up her life for her sister.
This is basically all I can say without ruining the book. I’ve given you guys lots of information about the novel already. If this kind of stuff interests you, I believe that you will LOVE this novel!
My Thoughts (Nilou):
Ever since I was little I would always hear about The Hunger Games. I had no idea what it was, but I have this distinct memory of Mockingjay Part 2 coming out and everyone talking about it. I didn’t really have any interest in it.
That’s until I was about 12-13 years old and I watched The Hunger Games movie on a plane. I found the whole idea of it a little traumatising. I mean, a bunch of teenagers killing each other off isn’t the typical thing you wanna read or watch when you’re a young person…
Hey, what’s that you ask?
‘So, Nilou, what made you want to read it?’
Well, I’m glad you asked! As part of the Year 9 Advanced English Curriculum you have to read it. I was actually pretty excited as I had not read it before. This was my first taste of a dystopian novel. And I LOVED it! Who thought that reading about the worst possible scenario is the most horrible world could be so exhilaratingly fantastic?
I think I might even publish an article about some of the themes brought up in this book. Anyway, let’s talk about all the positives of this book:
- The Dystopia
So, as I just mentioned, I loved the way that this book was a dystopian fiction. I had never read anything like it. Most books you pick up that are for teenagers are about romance, high school or some incredible adventure. This was so different to those stereotypes. I felt like I was reading something I wasn’t meant to be reading. I think it was because the things that were happening should not be known by a person as young as myself. But I guess that that was the goal of the story, to show that bad things can happen to anyone. So, when I read this I was just shocked, at the horror of this world and it just felt so real. At times, I felt like I wanted to be Katniss and just jump right into the book. I wanted to find out who these people were that were torturing the citizens of the districts. There was so much inequality, things that would never go unnoticed in our world. I wanted to do something about it, and as I read, things just kept getting worst, but the story became even better and stronger. The characters were treated so unfairly and were manipulated by the government in ways that are just inhumane. A lot of the time you will see minor attempts to create a dystopian world, but there will be so many flaws in it. This one was pretty much flawless, and as I have already stated, made the events in the book feel so realistic.
- The way the games were carried out
Let’s start with the reaping, how unfair is it? Many of the poorer Districts find this event extremely inhumane because their young children are being ‘stolen’ and killed. What also makes this so unfair for them is that only the children of the Districts must compete, and not those of the Capitol. Some of the children from less fortunate Districts are also at a bit of a disadvantage because they are very malnourished, and stand nearly no chance against older and more experienced competitors. There are also these types of tributes called Career Tributes and they have been trained from a very young age to volunteer for The Hunger Games. Career Tributes come from Districts 1,2 and 4 and it is a great honour to get into the games for them. The reason why these districts do this is because they are wealthy enough to. They are close to the Capitol and hold a tight alliance with them. They are much richer than the people in say, District 12, but still have their own disadvantages.
Then, the whole process of getting to the games, preparing for them and actually doing them was so interesting and amazing. I cannot describe this further without evoking spoilers though!
- The Characters
Suzanne Collins did such an amazing job on her character development. You can tell that so much planning went into them and that she really did love them from the bottom of her heart, otherwise she would not have been able to write about them in such a way. She made Katniss so brave and likeable, however not stereotypical. She made Peeta humorous but stubborn all the same. She made Haymitch drunk, but wise. And the way that she made us readers HATE, and I mean absolutely loathe, the Capitol and its inhabitants is just un-recreatable. What I also liked about Katniss was how she defied that teenage girl gender stereotype. She cared for her family by killing animals, all she wanted was the uttermost safety of those she loved, she actually hated wearing makeup and pretty dresses, she just wanted to be herself and she could not care less about what people think of her. I thought this was awesome!
Now, let’s talk about the ‘Peacekeepers’, so to say. They do the opposite than to keep the peace. They are basically the police, but they are allowed to shoot people and punish them with public whippings. They are just evil. If you’ve read Harry Potter than I can tell you that they are like the Death Eaters. President Snow is Voldemort, and the ‘Peacekeepers’ are the Death Eaters. Sorry to those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (another reason to read Harry Potter.) The term peacekeeper is actually a euphemism for those who bring terror and violence, NOT PEACE. This is very clever on Suzanne Collins’ part. It just rubs in the irony of them being totally sadistic.
- The Symbolism
Throughout the book we are introduced to different symbols and motifs. Some may be super obvious and others not so much so. Of course, there is the mockingjay, symbol of courage, strength and rebellion. Katniss’ bow and arrows are a recurring motif of survival and hunting. Fire; Katniss is the girl on fire and fire also represents fear and imminent death, but it may also provide a spark for a rebellion. And one of the less obvious ones but probably my favourite is bread; the symbol for debt, kindness and generosity.
- The Themes
There are just so many themes in this novel that make the reader think a lot. The classic ones include love and sacrifice. One that I love was power. The power and authority that the Capitol shows. And how power can affect everything we do as an individual, or an empire. Some other themes include identity (the districts all have very different identities), survival, competition and politics. In an interview, Suzanne Collins said that she was inspired by a Greek myth. When you look at the events that happen in The Hunger Games you are reminded of Roman times. We actually spoke about this in class and our teacher was saying how what happened to the gladiators in the Colosseum was very similar to the events of The Hunger Games.
However, I personally believe that the themes that gets us readers think about the most is: reality. Reading this novel makes you think of you as a person and the type of society that you live in. As mentioned before, this book is set in the future in an alternate version of North America. There was a war that ruined the country, and this shows the resulting effects of our actions and how they impact others. If we stuff up our world really badly, could it end up like Panem? This is what this novel got me thinking about…
All these elements that I have just listed prove that this novel is not just some made up kid’s book. It is the story of a girl, but not only this girl. It is a story of love and power as well as the horrors of mankind. And after all isn’t dystopian fiction just history repeating itself?
As I say, there is no PERFECT story (apart from Harry Potter OF COURSE!!!!!) and they all have their plot holes. With The Hunger Games though, I didn’t really find any obvious ones, and I had to do a bit of an internet search to see if any other people had found some. As you can guess, there were some issues that people had with the story. Such as the politics not making much sense, lack of actual ‘hunger’ in the games and just a few other minor details that people were not happy with. But seriously, with all of the things that could have gone wrong with writing this novel, I believe that Collins did an amazing job!
Okay, that’s enough writing for now! But I can assure you, this will not be my last blog post on The Hunger Games. I will soon be reviewing Catching Fire and after that, Mockingjay. Please let me know what you guys think in the comments below. Have I addressed all the themes? Are there any things in particular that you wanted to know before reading The Hunger Games? And if I were to write an article about this series, what would you like it to be about?
Let’s start the discussion!
I strongly suggest that you also look at the links section below, I have found some really interesting content such as a map of Panem, a video game where you can try and survive The Hunger Games, a relevant scene from the movie and inspiration for the author.
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: September 2008
For ages: 13-16+
Type: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Survival, Reality TV, Action, Adventure and Drama
NOTE: THIS REVIEW REFLECTS OUR PERSONAL OPINION AND ONLY OUR PERSONAL OPINION.
The Capitol – Official Website (I have no idea what this website is, just stumbled across it. I think it’s in some way a joke. I don’t really get it though…)