Book Name: The Hunger Games—Book 1
Writer: Suzanne Collins
Release Date: September 14, 2008
Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12…a poor mining district in the mountains of Appalachia. With her friend Gale Hawthorne, Katniss illegally hunts the nearby woods for food to trade and feed her mother and sister Primrose. When Prim is selected in the local lottery, Katniss volunteers to take her place as the female tribute from District 12 and with her is Peeta Mellark who lives as a baker’s son. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol to be prepared for the games and know that their chances of survival against the other Districts is slim since only their mentor Haymitch Abernathy has ever won. Entering the games, both Katniss and Peeta know there can be only one survivor despite the new feelings between them.
The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins and become a crossover sensation. Not only are young adults reading it, but older readers (like myself), putting it in line with other recent popular young adult novels like the Harry Potter series and Twilight. Published by Scholastic, the series went crazy on the bookshelves and now in 2012 has a big screen adaptation coming out starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale.
The first elephant in the room is if The Hunger Games is a girl book like Twilight or if guys can enjoy it. I think it kind of is a girls’ book…the whole Katniss-Peeta-Gale thing really solidifies that. Is it possible to have this type of love triangle in a book for guys? Yes, but how it is written in this story really slants it toward female readers. Both Gale and Peeta are good guys and they both want Katniss. Gale won’t say it (he’s the rebel) and Peeta spouts it all the time (he’s the nice guy). Katniss can’t decide as a result and constantly finds herself questioning her emotions etc… It is the whole Twilight thing, but Collins seems to be a better writer than Stephenie Meyers and except for the portion in the cave as Katniss tries to heal Peeta’s wounds, the story moves quite fast.
That being said, there is enough blood and death to entertain a guy. Most of Katniss’ kills are defensive or in a passion (so therefore she isn’t responsible). The first portion of the book might be a bit slow for some readers with the pomp & circumstance surrounding the games, but as an older reader, I enjoyed that portion just to see how the culture and society functions. I wasn’t quite clear on how the actual competition works at points since it is being shot, outside interference is allowed, and the area in which it is played seemed rather open.
The Hunger Games borrows from a lot of other styles and novels. The Running Man by Stephen King (who loved this book) has a similar fight to the death competition for television entertainment. Series 7: The Contenders also has a more open play battle for life with one winner…kind of a sandbox style video game where the contestants can be anyone. There is a bit of Lord of the Flies in the novel where kids, alone, will revert to killers and their base nature. I think The Hunger Games most resembles Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Battle Royale would be the “boys” equivalent to The Hunger Games where a class of Japanese students in a post-apocalyptic Japan are forced to battle it out on an island…armed with only the weapons they are assigned or win. It is very, very similar to The Hunger Games but far more ruthless & bloody…fans should check it out.
The Hunger Games isn’t a bad book. It is actually quite good and if I were a younger reader I would have enjoyed it more. As an older reader, I found it a bit superficial and the relationships pretty predictable. I do hope that readers realize that the work isn’t that original, but it is presented in a nice smart package. So read The Hunger Games, then see the movie when it is released…it is a rather quick read so it isn’t that much of a commitment. The Hunger Games was followed by The Hunger Games Book II: Catching Fire in 2009.