The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
|The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy
|Summary: Exciting future catastrophe novel focusing on gladiatorial style combat games. It's pacy and incredibly absorbing with a dynamic and attractive central character. Great stuff, if a little on the long side for perfect Bookbag comfort.
|Date: January 2009
A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book
Katniss Everdeen lives in what was once Appalachia in a post-apocalyptic America, now called Panem. The haves of Panem are comfortably ensconced in The Capitol, while the have-nots, among them Katniss, live in one or other of twelve districts, all of which have a specialised job in supplying the fat cats with the more-than-they-needs. Katniss lives in District 12, the mining area, and she's from the poorest, roughest area of all; the Seam. There's little in the way of luxury in the Seam; few people even have enough to eat. And so Katniss gets by through poaching in the woods outside the District's fence. It's strictly illegal, but since so many have so little, including the officials, a blind eye is turned.
Some time previously, the Districts had the effrontery to rebel from this peonage but the uprising was ruthlessly extinguished. And as a deterrent, there is an annual Reaping, in which twenty-four adolescent contestants, two from each District, are chosen to compete to the death in a TV reality show called The Hunger Games. When Katniss's little sister is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place...
Oh, I love a bit of future catastrophe. It's very popular in children's fiction at the moment and it's being handled awfully well. The Hunger Games is no exception. Collins is a no-nonsense writer. Her prose isn't particularly pretty, but it does have dry humour and is pacy, tight and tense, and this book is a real page-turner. Aside from the rather gory fighting - and it is gory - the main plot axis turns around a potential love affair between Katniss and Peeta, her fellow District 12 competitor. Peeta is a deep thinker, and before the games even begin, he has recognised that his humanity is more important to him than his life. Katniss, brave, resourceful and bitter, lacks his subtlety of thinking, but her tenacity and courage win your heart almost immediately. The tension between the two is therefore of great interest; with thematic depth added to the mix.
There is a great deal of contemporary resonance for readers to think about here - consumption, world trade, a future destroyed by our present, slavery, even reality TV. The citizens of the Capitol are laughable to Katniss; with their outlandish makeup and ridiculous cosmetic surgical alterations, to her, they barely look human, and the parallels are obvious. But mostly it's a tremendously driven and thrilling story and a hugely satisfying read. Some of the gore - slow death by mutant werewolf, anyone? - is perhaps too gory for the very youngest of keen sci-fi readers, but I certainly wouldn't withhold it from anyone else. At 450 pages, I think it's just that bit too long, but I think all books, particularly those for children and young adults, should come in under 300 pages, so this is a mere personal nit-pick. Streamlining is good!
My thanks to the nice people at Scholastic for sending the book. We also have a review of Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.
Those, like me, who love post-apocalyptic fiction will also like the slightly more sophisticated The Inferior by Peadar ó Guilín, which has echoes of The Truman Show, while Silverhorse by Lene Kaaberbol has a winning female character with some wonderful Scandinavian sensibilities thrown in for free. You might also appreciate A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau might sound similar but is still a very good read.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is in the Top Ten Dystopian Books For Children.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins at Amazon.com.
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Ruth Ng said:
I thought I'd comment on this as I finished The Hunger Games last night and absolutely loved it! I think it's going to be one of those books that I endlessly bore people about as I try to encourage everyone to read it! Now I just need to reserve the sequel from the library...